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Journalists Don’t Understand Economics?

The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat wrote about a “Glaring gap in Sea-Tac security

At the end of the article, he asks a question which led me to believe that Danny doesn’t have a firm grasp of economics. So, I attempted to provide some analysis for him. My response:

In your article, you ask: “Shouldn’t homeland security make more sense by now?”


Why not, you ask?

– Who loses their job if those cameras aren’t turned on? (Nobody)
– Does SeaTac lose customers over this? (Nope, they are a monopoly on air travel in the region)
– What is the ultimate response? (SeaTac security – the very people who screwed up — get more money.)

In fact, it’s amazing that the right thing ever happens under these circumstances.

On the other hand:

– “Super” mall owners probably gave a bonus to the manager that secured this government money for the cameras. (This manager has a strong incentive to get the cameras to the mall)
– If something like this happens at the super mall, the negative press scares some customers away. (The mall has no monopoly, so they have to get it right or lose customers)
– Malls want to avoid theft to be more attractive to current and prospective tenants (The mall has a strong incentive to have cameras turned on)

Is it any wonder that the mall gets it right and that homeland security and the airport once again get it wrong?

Of course, its a whole lot easier as a journalist to simply ask “Shouldn’t homeland security make more sense by now?” and not provide any reasons. Much more striking article that gets people running around in “Do Something Syndromeland,” virtually ensuring that the end result is more tax money going towards the airport’s security. Sometimes I hate being right.

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