Terrorism: As Dangerous As A Tornado?

The Wall Street Journal this weekend ran a very interesting article about terrorism, and how incredibly unlikely it is for an American to die in a terrorist attack, and how Americans should maybe toughen up and look at the numbers instead of spending billions of dollars and millions of hours taking off their shoes at airports to prevent something that is statistically rare. The main article is here, and the sidebar that runs the numbers in detail (by Nate Silver!) is here.

The chance of an American dying in a terrorist attack is 1 in 3,000,000, or about the same as being killed by a tornado. Every day, 50 Americans are murdered, but we certainly aren’t spending the time and money to prevent those deaths that we are spending on the much less deadly terrorism. Obviously, this is a complicated issue that can’t be decided purely on statistics, but the point that we are maybe not focusing on the right things, and that we are maybe giving the terrorists a bigger psychic role than they deserve, is a good one.

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2 responses to “Terrorism: As Dangerous As A Tornado?

  1. How is it that we Americans are so easily led into fear? Is it simply left-over Bush angst or were we always so fearful? (Other pertinent stats – the thousands who die of smoking-related causes each year and, of course, those who pay the price for no health insurance!) So, yes, let’s toughen up.

  2. Well, I don’t think we need to take the approach of a health insurer towards solving the problem, but the article makes some valid points. Are we getting the security we are paying for? Are we making the United States and Americans safer for all the costs?

    Spending money on upgrading and implementing our technology is great but not if a guy whose own dad warned us was a danger can make it through a couple of airports and get into U.S. airspace on a commercial airliner with a crotch full of explosives. This was a human error type of mistake that no technological innovation is likely to address. How much does it cost to hire, train and authorize someone to look at this guy’s dossier and say “No Entry to the U.S. at this time” and keep the would be bomber off the flight?

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