Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Airport Security is Killing Us

Charles Kenny at Business Week:
Of the 150,000 murders in the U.S. between 9/11 and the end of 2010, Islamic extremism accounted for fewer than three dozen. Since 2000, the chance that a resident of the U.S. would die in a terrorist attack was one in 3.5 million. . . .  In fact, extremist Islamic terrorism resulted in just 200 to 400 deaths worldwide outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq—the same number as die in bathtubs in the U.S. alone each year. Yet the TSA still commands a budget of nearly $8 billion—which is why the agency is left with too many officers and not enough to do.

According to one estimate of direct and indirect costs borne by the U.S. as a result of 9/11, the New York Times suggested the attacks themselves caused $55 billion in “toll and physical damage,” while the economic impact was $123 billion. But costs related to increased homeland security and counterterrorism spending, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, totaled $3,105 billion. . . .

There is lethal collateral damage associated with all this spending on airline security—namely, the inconvenience of air travel is pushing more people onto the roads. Compare the dangers of air travel to those of driving. To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist. Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. They also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening alone reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities.
Couldn't some of those Tea Party Congressmen who hate government spending get to work on this? Could an alliance of liberals and libertarians be formed that would force cutbacks in this madness?

1 comment:

leif said...

oh come now. are you serious that our elected officials would dare look soft on a bugbear? puh-lease. this is all part of the delusion. your statistics must have been made up by someone at jimmy carter's foundation... he has a foundation, right?... to cow us into weakness so this will happen again. i always knew he had it out for the country.

kidding aside, the use of numbers here is of fleeting consequence to the panicked masses who continue to believe there's a threat. they simply need to feel safe; whether they *are* safe is not what they want to hear. they simply want the delusion to persist because it makes them feel that there's, wow, less randomness in their lives. nevermind that seeing the stats for this should assure them that there's actually quite a lot of normalcy.

al qaida, whatever's left of it, must be still laughing at the money we heap into the TSA.

this perfectly fits bruce schneier's first human tendency in exaggerating risk: people exaggerate spectacular but rare risks and downplay common risks.