The Power of Exit: Boycott Air Travel

Even the most authoritarian institutions sometimes find themselves constrained by our power of exit. We may not have any real control — any voice — over how they’re run or the decisions they make. But we can still sometimes refuse to give them our money.

In the nearby town of Fayetteville, Arkansas, voters angered by the unaccountable decision of the school board to shut down old neighborhood schools expressed their anger through a “No” vote a few years ago on a millage increase.

This year voters in my own town of Springdale similarly voted down a millage increase after the unaccountable school administration closed down a segment of Emma Avenue (our Main Street) to build a palatial high school addition across it.

At the hospital where I work, the administrators decided to close down the Pediatrics ward and admit pediatric patients to vacant beds on the main post-operative care ward instead. Unfortunately for them, they realized at the last minute that every single one of their pediatric nurses had found jobs at other hospitals, and they would be unable to admit pediatric patients at all. As a result, they caved in, left the Peds ward open, and begged the nurses to stay.

In response to the latest demonstration of the power of exit — the organized movement at to “opt out” of air travel over the Thanksgiving holiday — TSA Director Pistole and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano are already in panic mode, squealing about it like stuck pigs. So you know it’s struck home.

John Pistole sniffed that it was “irresponsible” to opt out of measures that “could prevent an attack using non-metallic explosives.” This is typical bureaucratic smugness. “It has been determined” (apparently on Mount Sinai) that this particular set of bureaucratic measures is the one, true way to “protect our safety.” And anyone who doesn’t comply with what “has been determined” by the neutral, disinterested, generic expertise of The Authorities is being “irresponsible.”

Um, no. Actual, flesh and blood human beings determine — active voice — policies based on their own subjective judgment and private interests. And when such policies “are determined” by bureaucrats, more often than not they’re stupid. They certainly are in this case. Outside the security-industrial complex, body scans are widely regarded as little more than a “Security Theatre” measure for public consumption.

It’s time to teach these smug “Authorities” a lesson. They say “flying is a privilege, not a right,” as if compliance with an internal passport system was simply an appropriate display of gratitude for the “favor” they do you in allowing you to travel inside your own country. It’s time to show them that it’s a privilege to collect our money, and they can’t count on continuing to collect money from people they abuse.

The U.S. Post Office has had to adapt, in recent years, to losing a major share of its business to email. Airlines, similarly, should lose business to teleconferencing as business travelers find their “peep or grope” alternative increasingly degrading. If the airlines lost every passenger who now regularly engages in non-essential business travel for purposes that could be accomplished by teleconferencing, they’d really be hurting.

Let’s start by participating in National Opt Out Day. This is a nationwide protest scheduled for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, November 24. If you can avoid using air travel at all, please do so — and continue to avoid air travel whenever possible. If you can’t avoid it, say “I opt out” and force the TSA goons to pat you down. If they pat you down in a way that you consider in any way inappropriate, file a complaint with law enforcement. And if you have time, participate in the airport protests being organized on November 24 by

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