The Economics and Political Economy of Transportation Security

The Economics and Political Economy of Transportation Security

Transport Economics, Management and Policy series

Kenneth Button

In this clear and observant book, Kenneth Button provides an overview of the economics and political economy of transport security, considering its policy from an economic perspective. His analysis applies micro-economic theory to transport issues, supporting and enhancing the larger framework of our knowledge about personal, industrial, and national security.

Chapter 3: Some basic economics of transportation security

Kenneth Button

Subjects: economics and finance, transport, environment, transport, politics and public policy, public policy, terrorism and security, urban and regional studies, transport


Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security John Allen Paulos. The user’s going to pick dancing pigs over security every time Bruce Schneier. Much of the public reaction in the United States, and that of the public authorities, to the 2001 attacks on New York and Northern Virginia was essentially a knee-jerk. Politicians felt that something should be done to maintain public confidence, and almost any sort of action was a natural recourse. The issue was as much one of assuring public confidence as it was of preventing further acts of terrorism. There was an inevitable feeling that inertia in these circumstances would be perceived to be a sign of weakness, and lack of command of the situation. Almost any action was thus seen as important in maintaining public confidence. There are, however, opportunity costs inherent in this, and gradually this has been explicitly recognized. The longer-term approach has been more measured, and involved significant broader national and international institutional changes in addition to the deployment of explicit anti-terrorist measures at the micro, generally local jurisdiction level. The creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2001 and its subsequent embedding in the Department of Homeland Security is perhaps the most obvious transportation manifestation of this at the national level, with actions at such bodies as the International Maritime Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization reflecting international initiatives.

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