Ridiculous rules

Published 10:26 am Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it plans to stop requiring that children under the age of 12 remove their shoes during passenger screenings. This put another dent in the idea that there’s any real merit to many of the annoying aspects of the way passengers are treated before they can board an airplane.

The remove-the-shoes requirement was, like many parts of the passenger screening process, a knee-jerk response to an incident in which a terrorist tried — unsuccessfully — to blow up an aircraft with explosives hidden in his shoe. To appease an American public that is satisfied by the appearance, rather than reality, of safety, shoe removal at all checkpoints began almost immediately. But if a 12-year-old’s shoes are safe, why aren’t everyone’s? It can not be a matter of size, since there are plenty of 11-year-old boys who are larger than many adult women.

It’s a puzzler, unless one recognizes that much of what passes for security is designed only to provide a superficial appearance of “doing something,” a point which applies to many things the government does above and beyond airport passenger screening.

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At some point, Americans ought to demonstrate that they prefer substance to show or, even better, accept that there are some risks in life that can’t be legislated away. Until then, expect more sublimely ridiculous examples of so-called security — along with the taxpayer expense and annoyance that inevitably goes along.