Wednesday, September 20, 2006

the cost of terrorism prevention

Glenn at Agoraphilia has some thoughts about the risks of terrorism related deaths compared to other causes of death... like bee stings or seeing Bea Arthur naked.

Well, as a matter of comparison. When it comes to bee stings, we have an office in every (appropriate) county in America to cover pest control. We have cops everywhere, obstensibly to prevent crimes, even crimes that don't mean death.

We don't spend a lot on preventing terrorism now. Before then, we spent a negligible sum. Our police practices for other things allowed terrorism prevention by free riding (see Neumaniam Bomb Plot)

Terrorists have spent very little before the "war on terror"because the risk was minor compared to the value of success. Even now, the risk vs reward factor favors acting out against the US. The only question is whether the US has truly counterbalanced it's level of effort against the level of risk, or at a minimum, has the appearance of such a counter balance occurred.

The problem is, practically speaking, it's really hard to calculate the costs we actually incur on those other popular causes of death. We are even harder up trying to calculate the marginal gains additional spending would produce.

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