Why do we have a TSA?

John Tyner became a YouTube sensation this week for recording and sharing his confrontation with TSA officials over the pat-down he was required to endure to get on an airplane. His outrageous experience clearly touched a nerve with a lot of Americans — myself included.

No matter how many times I go through an airport, which is almost daily, I am outraged each and every time. Whether it is the disgusting thought of a “full-body scan,” being touched in ways nobody should be touched, or having a guy in a uniform confiscate my one ounce of toothpaste because it’s in a six-ounce tube, I ask myself what has brought us to the point where we let the government do the kind of stuff to us that we wouldn’t let anyone else do?

My friend Congressman Ron Paul has introduced legislation to make it clear that TSA officers are not immune from basic laws regarding unwanted physical contact. I commend him for doing so, but cannot help but point out how unbelievable it is that such a law might even be necessary. How is it that we line up like sheep at the airport and let the government grope us in ways that would get anybody else in the country fired or arrested? I say enough is enough. Let’s stop being sheep.

Instead of trying to fix or adjust or moderate TSA airport screening procedures to make them less abusive or slightly more tolerable, I say it is time to turn airport screening and security over to those who should be doing it in the first place: the airlines.

We all want to be safe when we fly. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that the TSA doesn’t seem to answer to anyone. They don’t really care how intrusive or offensive their procedures are, and they have no interest in letting us, the flying public, make our own decisions about how much privacy and dignity we are prepared to sacrifice in the name of security.

The airlines, however, who after all own the airplanes and are ultimately responsible for their passengers’ safety and comfort, have every reason in the world to care about security — and providing it in ways that are acceptable to their paying customers.

If allowed to take the responsibility for airport screening, airlines would turn to the best and brightest minds and entrepreneurs on the planet to develop technology and best practices that would certainly be more effective than whatever the government is doing now — and financial necessity would ensure that those procedures did not constitute abuse and unacceptable invasions of our privacy and our bodies.

Certainly, like many other aspects of our lives and businesses, the government may be compelled to establish minimum standards and criteria for airport security; however, let entrepreneurs and the marketplace figure out how to meet those standards — rather than bureaucrats. The result, I am absolutely confident, will be safer air travel, more efficient airports, lower costs, and a lot less officially-sanctioned touching.

Gary Johnson is the honorary chairman of the OUR America Initiative (www.ouramericainitiative.com), a 501(c)(4) advocacy committee. He is also the former Republican Governor of New Mexico (1994-2002), and has been a consistent and outspoken advocate for efficient government and lowering taxes.