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Looking for Trouble . . . Or Looking for Rules?

06/28/2011

Today, I had to fly to Chicago to attend board meetings of the NAPFA (the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors).  Waiting to remove my shoes, belt and whatever else the TSA requires, I was reminded of the Securities & Exchange Commission.  You will recall the SEC audited Bernie Madoff twice without ever discovering he was a crook.  Having been audited by the SEC, I learned there is enormous emphasis on the procedures for following rules, more emphasis on the procedures than on actually following the rules.  Protecting the public is a happy but accidental coincidence. 

The Israeli national airline has told the U.S. that our airport security spend too much time looking at things, instead of looking at people.  After two small children set off the metal detector today, I watched them being led away with their mother for more security checks.  I recalled the recent case of the 95-year-old lady, who was confined to a wheelchair, but still had to have her diaper checked and changed before boarding.

While there is undoubtedly some truth to the Israeli advice, my suspicion is that the TSA is more concerned with regulation and procedure than actually looking for dangerous people  We are so afraid of racial profiling that we prefer invasive procedures over intelligent selective protection. 

If rules matter more than outcomes, I wouldn’t complain, but countless airport screening tests have shown countless guns and other weapons actually taken on board, despite the current system of checking procedures instead of checking people.

But, is there anything we can learn from the Israelis?  After all, they have not had a hijacking or terrorist attackes in over forty years.  Anything at all?

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