How national security policy might have contributed to the death of Germanwings passengers gives us a chance to re-think how we do national security.
Since I have just written about “security regulations” at Heathrow Airport, perhaps it would be a good time to talk about what often happens when the state takes action to keep us safe.
First a caveat: I haven’t found a history of French and German airline regulations, so I don’t know for sure when they put doors in their planes that could withstand an axe attack. But it is quite likely, that they did it when we did it in the United States. And we did it in response to the attacks on 9/11. As this Wikipedia entry reminds us, strong, fortress-like cockpit doors were implemented as a response to the hijackings that occurred that day.
And if other nations followed that path, they probably made the switch then too. After all, if we mandated the doors for the sake of national security, we couldn’t have other countries’ airlines coming into our airspace without the same features.
I remember when this was talked about in the national media. Somehow I lost my ability to think clearly. It seemed like a good idea to everyone.
Yet one of the hijacked planes was reportedly brought down by the passengers! So it was never obvious that unbreakable, lockable cockpit doors were necessarily the lesson of 9/11. The national media and the political elite picked up on the idea, made is sound reasonable, and made it the only option for the country. Other countries did this also.
What if we had a hands-off approach—otherwise known as “laissez-faire” policy? This leave us alone philosophy means that we would have assumed that airplane security was the responsibility of the people who owned the airplanes. Yes, insecure planes were a hazard to other people besides airplane owners and passengers, but the fact remains that airplane owners had the most personal motivation to keep the planes secure.
Now it is possible that every single airline would have decided to install secure doors, but it is far more likely, especially as the airlines considered the cost of the investment, that it might have occurred to one of them that this was not necessarily a good idea.
And if the pilot of Germanwings 9525 had been able to bust down the door and get to the co-pilot in the cockpit it is quite possible he could have saved the lives of the passengers that day.
The point here is that, just because the nation state is tasked with security, doesn’t mean it is the best source for national security. We might be able to provide our own security, and we might be able to do it better through spontaneous decisions rippling through a free economy.