As the holidays come and go, I am reminded of a blog post about the TSA, I Was Wrong for “Opting Out”, by economist Robert P. Murphy. In it, Murphy says simply that, “Everybody should be opting out as a matter of principle.” While I agree with the motivation to expose the involuntary nature of TSA scanning and to make it more difficult for the state to routinely violate the Fourth Amendment, I continue to go through the scanners.
Don’t mistake me; I admire him for making it harder for TSA agents to do their jobs without considering the human impact. This goes further than making travelers late or even violating their privacy. People are being conditioned to expect and accept criminal treatment, invasive authority, and the ridiculous notion that the only way to protect a nation’s liberty is to strip its citizens of theirs.
Children born after 2001 will think nothing of being searched like criminals, barked at for the crime of wanting to fly in a plane, and bodily violated by figures in uniform. The more private industries the government infiltrates this way, the less we notice it, and worse, the more we think we need it. What Mr. Murphy and his friend did, what my husband does, I admire and appreciate. However, I will not participate in this aspect of the fight, and I don’t think I’m wrong.
I, like an estimated one fifth of the female population, have experienced sexual assault. On the few occasions when I have been randomly selected for a pat down, I felt a level of anxiety that I am unwilling to go through again. I wasn’t reassured by the fact that the stranger assaulting me was a woman, or by the see-through paper between her hands and my body. The accompanying narration didn’t help; of course I know you’re touching my buttocks now—I can feel you!
Being told to stand still while someone you don’t know and don’t want touches you, knowing you’ll face consequences if you resist, are tenets of sexual assault. My experience was not violent, so I could walk away with only lingering anger and sadness. I bet others are shaken to the point of panic. Even without my history, I would find the “PG-13 bordering on R-rated” experience highly uncomfortable and while I expect the state to care little and less about my personal autonomy, I don’t expect that from the liberty community.
Since I understand anarchy to be the conclusion that you do not owe your life to anyone, I, like all people, have to decide how much of myself I am willing to give to a principle. You have to decide what you are willing to do, and the degree to which you are willing to put yourself in harm’s way.
True, a person cannot with integrity say they stand for an idea if they do nothing to further it. Sharing stories and quotes on social media does have some impact, though it’s arguably low, and anyone who becomes outraged at the complacency of others while doing nothing more than clicking “like” is obviously a hypocrite. However, we all have to weigh risk against benefit when combating oppression, and we all have to draw our own line.
If you are willing to “opt out” at the airport to expose the involuntary nature of the TSA, thank you. And if you are not willing to do this or other things yet because the cost to your life is too great, that’s okay. Please keep asking yourself honestly what you can and cannot give up to contribute to freedom. But remember why you’re doing it, and do it for yourself as much as any principle.
Erin Whiting spent her formative years trying to reconcile her individualist leanings with a socialistic upbringing. She studied philosophy in college and joined the university’s Students for Liberty chapter, which paved the way for her discovery of philosophical libertarianism. Her writing topics of choice are liberty, objective ethics, and the role women can and do play in liberty discourse.