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.