Cultural Revolutions

The TSA and Security

Many Americans today are baffled by the Third Amendment to the Constitution, the one in which the quartering of troops in private homes is prohibited in times of peace, except by the consent of the owner.  Quartering troops in time of war was allowed, but only as regulated by law.

Some of the amendments in our beleaguered Bill of Rights are still alive and kicking.  However misused and mistreated, the First and Second are still in the fight.  Some, such as the Tenth, are a dead letter through neglect and abuse.  And some, like the Third, are a dead letter because the way we do things has largely passed this circumstance by.  Quartering troops is no longer common practice.  The amendment reflects the circumstances of the day.

If the Bill of Rights were being considered today, the Third Amendment would involve something like airport security, not quartering troops.  Take the most recent obnoxious invasion of individual privacy—the TSA use of security devices that can see right through your clothes.  They promise that the images are not saved, and of course a pretty cogent answer to this promise is the circulation on the internet of images saved under similar circumstances.  And besides, who cares if they are saved?  Are we really reassured by the voyeur who promises to look just once?

The Third Amendment was addressing just one particular instance of the universal tendency of government...

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