The Economics of Long Airport Lines [...]

The TSA does not pay for your time, so it can spend it irresponsibly.

Interminable lines at airport security checkpoints have caused a great deal of unnecessary misery.

Many people have missed their planes, and some flights have been delayed because too few passengers made it to the gate on time. A video of a two-hour security delay at Chicago’s Midway International Airport generated millions of views.

There are many explanations for what has been happening at the airports, but, as economists, we naturally prefer a basic, economic one: When something is free, it is likely to be wasted. (Think about food left on your plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet.) In this case, the Transportation Security Administration has been acting as if there were no cost to tying people up for hours in security lines. In effect, all that time on line is “free” to the T.S.A. (Source)

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