Take My Briefcase

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OPEN UNIVERSITY SEPTEMBER 11, 2006

Take My Briefcase

by Bill Stuntz
I suspect the kind of cost-benefit analysis Cass suggests would yield the
conclusion that banning carry-on luggage is a bad deal: too much cost for
too little benefit. It seems interesting to me that such a move would have
any significant public support. Does it? If so, I think it's an example
of a larger pattern in the law and politics of law enforcement
generally: we are surprisingly (to me anyway) tolerant of large
restrictions on our liberty, and surprisingly intolerant of even small
restrictions on our privacy. Seems to me, it's a much bigger intrusion on
my freedom to have the government tell me I'm not allowed to bring a laptop
or a book on board a plane or train (will trains be next?), than to have
some government computer doing data analysis of zillions of phone
conversations, including a few in which I participated. There are lots of
examples in the law of criminal procedure. In general, it's easier for the
government to lock me up than to search my briefcase. I'd rather they
didn't do either, but if I had to pick one, I'd happily give them the
briefcase. Either my tastes are strange, or the law is.

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