On Sunday, January 3, thousands of airline travelers were delayed after an unknown person walked the wrong way through an exit at Newark Liberty International Airport. Continental Airlines, the largest user of the affected terminal, was still behind schedule on Monday morning. Though it is relieving when a security scare results in no innocent casualties, this incident shows the vulnerability of the rigid institutions that are supposed to provide security. The possibility that a freed market can provide security better than a state ought to be examined.
Most Americans depend daily on the functioning of a multitude of networks, from transportation to electricity. The Newark shutdown shows that something as minor as passing the wrong way through a door (from the “public” area to the “sterile” area) can cause a cascade of failures as flights are delayed, connecting flights are missed, and important business and personal meetings are disrupted. Individual Americans are harmed. The state will likely respond as it is designed to do, with more force and more restrictions. Bigger, flashier, more intrusive security is paid for not just in tax dollars, but also in the inefficiencies, dissatisfaction, and conformity it causes. Individual Americans are further harmed.
As of press time, the identity and intentions of the man who walked the wrong way are unknown. Most likely he was confused and did not realize the problems that would be caused by the government’s response to his actions. Of course, he could have been a government official either examining security, thinking he was too important to go through a checkpoint, or intentionally creating tension. He could also be someone with personal motives for disrupting an airport.
Security at some level is valued by most individuals, and things that are sufficiently demanded will be supplied in a truly free market. Consensual organizations are well-suited to actually safeguard individuals and the systems they depend on.
Flexibility and adaptability are critical to security today. Consensual organizations are generally more flexible and adaptable than governments or the organizations they bolster. Consensual organizations respond to the demands of individual customers or participants, not to the demands of political pull like their authoritarian counterparts do.
Decentralizing the networks that support life can reduce the damage caused by disruption. A freed market would likely foster entrepreneurship by reducing barriers to entry. It is also likely that freeing the market will require encouraging people to value autonomy and creativity. For these reasons a freed market would likely rely less on centralized supply than the current authoritarian economy. By encouraging rigid structures, centralization, and the mindset of employee and consumer, the state actually makes us more vulnerable.
Airline companies are complicit in the security-industrial complex Americans are burdened under. If the current companies were able to stay in business without government subsidy, they could use their influence to introduce at least a little sanity into the system. But their directors value money and control more than they value freedom. I’m not familiar enough with the regulations and business of long-distance travel to figure out a viable way to compete with existing airlines, but it seems like an area that liberty-minded entrepreneurs ought to explore.
Regardless, it is necessary to cultivate a demand for liberty that the market will answer to. Markets are still functioning today whether they are influenced by authority or evading it. Some libertarians, like Samuel Konkin and the Agorists, have focused their activism on building economic power (dubbed “counter-economics”) to displace and dismantle the state by helping people evade its control.
State security is based on the idea that situations are safest when certain people control the other people involved. Statist policies of control disrupt life from the Middle East to the Midwest, and set people against each other as they strive to direct the reigns of authority. Anarchists recognize that relying on those who view your life as a means to their power is never the safest way to fly. Libertarian security is therefore based in liberty and the responsibility for one’s own life. Individuals must figure out what kind of security policies best reflect their values and protect their personal liberty while respecting the equal liberty of others.
Cultivating a demand for liberty will cause control to be less desired. Being accountable to libertarian society will prevent a freed market from supplying the same authoritarian solutions as the state.
By basing security on liberty, responsibility, and consensual organization, a stateless society can best protect the freedom to live according to one’s desires.