Paranoia Strikes Deep in the Heartland

“It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” — David Hume.

putative.com: FedEx refuses shipment of made-up stuff, empty cans

FedEx guy: Is this really what this is? Rocket fuel?
Me [laughing, used to this reaction from being at the space-travel supply store]: Oh, no, no, no. Of course not. It’s… made-up. Kind of a joke. It’s actually full of sugar, which I just put in to give it some weight, but that’s all it is.
FedEx guy: You can’t ship this.
Me: But… it’s just sugar! What, uh, what if I empty it out? It doesn’t really need to have sugar in it.
FedEx guy: No. They would still x-ray it, and then you’d get a call when it was en route. I don’t think it would make it.

FedEx guy: Nope. You can’t ship these either.
Me: But… they’re empty! It’s just air. And… nitrogen? It’s, like, almost 80% of the atmosphere. There’s nothing dangerous about nitrogen, even if it were pure.
FedEx guy: They look too much like bomb-making materials.

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4 Responses to Paranoia Strikes Deep in the Heartland

  1. anon says:

    FedEx is a private company. See UM Law ConLaw II lectures.

    Other wacky legal US factoids:
    Private Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim schools may refuse to admit students for failing to conform to a dress code! A private eating establishment may do the same! A private health insurance company may refuse you coverage, even if you’re on your death bed! A private attorney can refuse to take your case, simply because he doesn’t like you! Or because you smell bad!

    The painful price of freedom. Viva La Revolucion!

  2. Michael says:

    Yes, but the distinctive feature of modern regulation is to act via private intermediaries. That’s why this is a civil liberties issue: because FedEx is acting (if it’s telling the truth) on what it understands to be instructions from Homeland Security.

    Our current system of categorizing rights is peculiarly bad at dealing with these issues.

  3. Michael, that story has to be total nonsense. Just check the Fedex site.

    “FedEx Express is a world leader in the transport of dangerous goods, and has specialists on staff to assist with dangerous-goods questions. The first step is for you to identify whether your shipment contains dangerous goods. This category includes aerosol sprays, airbags, ammunition, butane, car batteries, cologne, dry ice, fireworks, gasoline, jet fuel, lighters, matches, nail polish, nail polish remover, nitrogen refrigerated liquid, paint, perfume and more.”

  4. anon says:

    You’ve persuaded me…call in the ACLU. God forbid we should live in a country where some equus asinus gets hassled trying to ship a package labled “Rocket Fuel”.

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