A controversy has developed over intensive searches of air passengers in the United States imposed by the liberal Obama Administration after the successful Christmas Day Bombing terrorist attack in 2009. Libertarians are protesting what they claim are invasions of privacy. A conservative response is necessary, as conservatism is balanced between liberalism, which is the belief that government should do almost everything, and libertarianism, which is the belief that government should do almost nothing. Conservatives recognize that government exists to protect our liberty, including the right to life.
There is a right to travel, but no right to fly. Like driving, which makes use of public roads, flying is a privilege, because it makes use of public facilities (federal air traffic control, for example). One has right to privacy, but there is no right to privacy in engaging in a public act, such as flying. A search of one’s person legally must be reasonable, but because of terrorism and other crimes, it is not unreasonable to search passengers boarding aircraft for weapons (e.g. guns or explosives). A metal detector is hardly invasive of privacy, although the new, more revealing scanning devices, which are necessary in order to detect non-metallic explosives, do raise legitimate privacy concerns about possible violations of one’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Regardless, entrance to public places or the use of mass transit implies consent for such searches.
These invasive weapons searches would be more reasonable if there were probable cause to conduct them, which is usually the measure for whether a search is reasonable. However, until the Administration adopts a practice of searching for terrorists and criminals instead of searching for weapons, such weapons searches will remain necessary in order to safeguard life, and thus, the right to travel. Indeed, weapons are not the problem. For example, United States Air Marshals are trusted to carry guns aboard civilian passenger aircraft, as are soldiers. Law-abiding citizens who have the right to keep and bear arms should also be trusted to fly, just as they are entrusted everywhere else. The problem is criminals and terrorists, not weapons and not law-abiding citizens. Neither weapons nor law-abiding citizens cause crime or terrorism; criminals and terrorists do.
Some critics of the invasive searches claim that the intensive pat-downs for those air passengers who opt out of passing through the revealing scanners amount to sexual assault. An intensive pat-downs is no more of a sexual assault than a physical examination conducted by a doctor. Physical contact is only sexual if it is intended to be sexual. There is no basis to infer necessarily such intent on the part of the security authorities who conduct these searches routinely. These invasive searches may seem to violate one’s private space, but far less than a bomb violates one’s private space.
On a related subject, it is good that the Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest of the year in the U.S. for flying, as it indicates that people want to be together with family for the holiday. However, it is indicative of how many family members nowadays live in different states from each other. I attribute these family separations across state lines in part to the loss of a public sense of federalism and loyalty to one’s state, which has been exacerbated by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the amendment most contrary to the Framers’ principle of federalism. As a result, people have come to regard permanently moving from one state to another as hardly different from moving from one municipality or county to another within one’s state, even though States are independent sovereign entities. The Fourteenth Amendment declares the residents of a state to be citizens of that state, which means that the federal government henceforth essentially has decided who is a citizen of a sovereign state, in violation of that state’s right to make such a decision itself. Therefore, for example, people must give up their citizenship in their own state even if they move to another state only temporarily for a few years, unlike when one works temporarily as a legal alien in a foreign state.
The several American States have formed a federal Union, not a new country in which these States are only provinces. Thus, permanently moving from one American State to another is little different from moving from one foreign state to another, a decision for which one might have good reason, but one that is as momentous as that taken by those who immigrated to America from abroad. Just as some aliens are attracted to America because of their belief in the American ideal, while others are attracted for lesser reasons, some Americans are attracted to certain States that better represent their beliefs, while others leave their states for lesser reasons. Too often, those Americans in the latter group move to another State even though they either know little about the heritage of their new home State or do not necessarily respect its heritage, thereby altering the unique character of that State, just as the same may be said of some aliens who immigrate to America.
We conservatives should hold fast to the principle of federalism and educate our fellow Americans about its benefits. We should cherish the diversity of the States.
May God bless the United States of America. Let us give thanks to God for life, for America, for independence, for liberty, and for the bounty He bestows upon us. Happy Thanksgiving!