Jonah Goldberg

According to the latest epidemiological research, airports reside somewhere between no-frills Haitian brothels and Penn State fraternity bathrooms when it comes to hygiene. USA Today recently surveyed the health inspection records of airport restaurants and found that serious code violations were as commonplace as rat and mouse droppings; 77 percent of 35 restaurants reviewed at Reagan National Airport had at least one major violation.

I could go on, of course. The petty humiliations, the routine deceptions from airline employees desperate to rid themselves of troublesome travelers ("Oh, they can definitely help you at the gate!"), the stress-position seats, the ever-changing rules for what can and cannot be in your carry-on, being charged for food that the Red Cross would condemn if it were served at Gitmo: Air travel is the most expensive unpleasant experience in everyday life outside the realm of words ending in -oscopy.

And speaking of unwelcome intrusions, the current debate over the "underwear bomber" is important and necessary, but it is detached from basic reality. To listen to the experts, the only relevant choice is between privacy and security. But the average person already understands that privacy is something you have to compromise to fly. The white zone has been for unloading your dignity and civil liberties for generations. This isn't to say that retaining what's left of our privacy isn't an important priority. But I, for one, would gladly sacrifice more privacy in exchange for more decency and efficiency. As it stands, Shlomo Dror, an Israeli air security expert, had it right in 2002 when he said: "The United States does not have a security system; it has a system for bothering people."

Public-private partnerships are all the rage these days. Progressives insist the judicious application of regulations, the cooperation of "responsible" corporations and the acquiescence of the American people are all that's needed to deliver everything from high-quality and affordable health care to "green" cars that run on little more than love for mother Earth.

No realm of American life is as auspiciously fecund with precisely such conditions as air travel. So -- put up or shut up.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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