Our Tacit Consent to be Scanned
In a country where people supposedly live in constant fear of terrorist attacks, it seems unfitting that the American people would throw up their arms at the thought of another level of security. When evaluating the facts, though, this should not be surprising whatsoever. According to an ABC-Washington post poll conducted, only 30% of American people are worried about terrorism in a commercial aircraft. This complacency explains the fuss being made over the new security measures being taken in airports.
A Time magazine article poses an interesting dilemma,
“If you want to fly, you must subject yourself either to radiation, which triggers a lot of emotional risk-perception alarms all by itself, or to a groping. Never mind the fact that the scanners’ radiation dose is lower than the amount of cosmic radiation you’ll get in just a few minutes on the flight you’re taking. That radiation exposure is voluntary. The exposure in the scanner is required, involuntary — as is the pat down. Imposed risk always feels greater.”
Reading this provoked me to consider John Locke’s concept of tacit consent. By flying to and from the United States, we are in essence consenting to the rules and procedures that come with it. Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government, explains that, “every man, when he at first incorporates himself into a commonwealth, he … submits to the community, those possessions which he has, or shall acquire, that do not already belong to any other government” (2.120).
I think that if Locke were to be here today, he would be in firm support of the body scanners and the pat downs. By going to an American airport and flying on American planes, you submit your property and yourself to the nation. And if this means you sacrifice some of your privacy for the betterment of the nation, so be it. Otherwise, don’t fly.