Who funds the cost of terrorism?

On the BBC there is a news/vote item about the “spiralling costs” of airport security. Apparently the airports industry is complaining that complying with the security restrictions imposed by the government (or the US government in some instances) is destroying their profits and they want the Government to contribute to offset some of the burden. The BBC writes:

The aviation industry has said it can no longer afford the spiralling costs of security at Britain’s airports.
Costs have risen by 150% since new security measures were brought in after the 11 September attacks in 2001.

Security now costs a quarter of major airports’ income. Airports cover all security costs themselves, but say this is simply not sustainable.

The industry now wants the government to contribute, but ministers insist the aviation industry must foot the bill.

Since the 11 September attacks, the government has introduced restrictions on hand baggage, a ban on liquids on board and, more recently, measures to move vehicles further away from terminal buildings.

It is interesting that the airports feel having to abide by government legislation is not something they should have to pay for, it strikes me as being the same as if car manufacturers decided to make the government pay for seatbelts, but that is a debate for another day.

Likewise, the idea that losing a bit of profit to improve upon safety is a “Bad Thing” is open to all manner of arguments – you could easily complain that airports only spend a quarter of their income on security…, but I will leave that as well.

Oddly, I will also avoid the farcial nature of the security measures – they are, by and large, pointless and designed for nothing more than pandering to peoples crackpot fears, but I will rant about that another time. (Phew 😉 ) I will even leave the nonsense comments alone today.

The main thing which piqued my interest, were the options in the vote. Before you shout at me, I know these “votes” are more for fun than anything else, I haven’t taken it seriously – however, the news debate on TV, Radio and online seems to realistically consider these three choices as the only options.

Who should pay for airport security?
The aviation industry
The government

The survey has most voters saying “The Government” and this has been reflected by the TV news coverage and the comments attached to this news item. Personally, I would have said it is the aviation industry’s responsibility but I am used to holding a minority viewpoint.

The issue I have with the choices here, and this is something which is often reflected in public debate, is the crazy idea that the Government has “money” in any realistic sense.

It strikes me that people seem to be massively unaware of the fact that making the government pay for something (even the constant stream of “Public Inquiries” we seem to need now) actually means everyone pays for it. If, for example, the UK government is forced to subsidise the airports, the money will either come from reducing other sectors of public funding (so we get worse hospitals or roads for example), cutting back on the money given to local authorities (so we pay more council tax for example) or by increasing the basic tax rates – so we pay more. What ever the option, it is the population of the country who will lose out.

Comically, the airports are on shaky ground here, as they do not bear the full costs of airport security really. Since 2001, the charges levied on airlines and travel operators has increased to offset the costs of anti-terror methods – which in turn has the effect of either reducing their profits or translating into higher travel costs. So in effect, the passenger has already been paying for the costs and now the airports want more.

Really, there are only two choices as to who bears the costs – the public as a whole, or people who use air travel. Personally, given that choice, I think it realistically has to be the people who chose to fly. Shame really. I fly a lot. 🙁

Annoyingly, despite some of the claims that all the measures are in response to demands by the UK government this is not the case. In some instances they are extra measures that the US government has demanded, in some they are demanded by international organisations. So, in effect, we have to subsidise the fears (real or otherwise) of foreign nations. Such is life, post-Empire…

[tags]Philosophy, society, culture, air travel, Security, Terrorism, Government, Industry, Taxation, Airlines, Airports, Flight Safety[/tags]

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