Barron suggests people show the TSA some verbal disrespect if you happen to meet them when they are not in a position of power over you.
I can’t find much fault with what he suggests. Perhaps it is just a waste of time. What I wonder is how much of this it would take before it would cause the turnover rate to noticeably increase. Beyond that how much would it take before the TSA would be shut down? And how many people would it take to accomplish this? This question can be generalized to other disliked organizations (not even restricted to governmental organizations).
If you say there are some organizations that can’t be eliminated this way then you don’t have enough imagination. Hypothetically the level of force can be scaled up to any level so in the extreme case this would be deadly force. And for small enough organizations, say a few dozen, one could imagine that a single “activist” could eliminate the entire organization and not get caught. Hence, in this extreme case one person could rid the planet of one hated organization by themselves.
At the other extreme you have one individual frowning at a single member of the hated organization composed of millions. The effect of which could not possibly be measured.
In between these two extremes there must be some level of force and number of applications of that force that results in the organization being disbanded. Could it be possible to determine what the minimum force and minimum required number of applications without going up against the TSA? Surely there is data that could be extrapolated from. If nothing else interviewing people that divorced their spouses or quit their jobs would provide some hints.
Suppose we had the numbers and we knew, for example, that the organization would disband if one of the following were true:
- 50% of the organization were verbally abused every day for one month
- 10% of the organization were physically assaulted at least once every month
- 1% of the organization were murdered each month.
Now we look at the problem from a different perspective, the moral acceptability of the actions. Suppose the organization were the Police Battalions moving through Poland and the USSR in 1941-2. Morally any level of force would be justified because of the defensive of innocent life. On the other end the organization might be activists for a Pro-Choice/Life organization and even though they might stir up some strong emotions it would be difficult to justify using force beyond verbal abuse.
Now comes the tricky part. How do you measure the moral tradeoff in quantity versus level of force? That is, for the example at hand, suppose that you could end the TSA by slapping a single TSA agent. Probably one could justify that. It would be worth violation of moral principles because you stopped the violation of other principles by the TSA. Very much like using deadly force to defend innocent life from those that take it.
So is that how one should balance the moral scales? Force must be in proportion to that applied by the hated individual or organization? That works when the numbers are one on one. But what when the offenders number in the 10s of thousands and they offend hundreds of times per day and will repeatedly offend into the endless future? How are the scales of morality balanced now? What can be justified as the weight of those millions of offenses stretching on into eternity are balanced against a small number of greater offenses? Is one person suffering a vigorous slap the moral equivalent of 10 full body pat downs and five nude body scans of the innocent victims?
Closely related is another question. How many people would someone have to kill before a law were changed or broken law ignored? Imagine some criminal is holed up in a building, surrounded by the cops, and the negotiator tells him to surrender. The criminals says he wants to consider his options and asks, “How many people do I have to kill to be allowed to go free?” The negotiator says, “It doesn’t work that way. You will not be allowed to go free no matter how many people you kill.” The criminal says, “You lack imagination. Obviously if I kill everyone else on this continent I will go free. But I don’t want to do that. That would be too terrible and too difficult. But if it were somewhat fewer I might consider it. So I want to know what the number is.”
So what is the answer? If the “right people” people in the executive branch, down through the local police force, are killed that would probably do it too. That number might be relatively small. Perhaps a few hundred. It would be exceedingly immoral of course. But posing the question fascinates me because of the implications. It appears that if an extraordinary evil is perpetrated against, perhaps, some very small number of people then the entire fabric of our society could be changed.
9/11 was a crude example but that data point supports the hypothesis. The people who were murdered were, for all intents and purposes, chosen at random. And although it had profound changes on our society the response was different from that intended by the attackers. But what if the people attacked were individually chosen for their position of power and it was believed the attackers could do it again at will and probably never get caught? The attackers don’t have to put themselves into positions of official power. They just have to have “veto power” over the lives of those who wield it.
Our society and political system is perhaps far more fragile than we would like to believe. It’s resilience is extremely dependent upon being able to almost completely thwart those that would exercise “veto power” and get away with it.
Update: Mexico probably has a lot of data that could be used to answer the questions.