The unverifiable, but unquestionably high, cost of alleged safety

August 17, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Common Dreams lays out many of the vast sums that Americans pay for it’s military, wars, homeland security and other allegedly necessary services related to our protection since 9/11. It adds up to $8 trillion dollars. Common Dreams then asks to what extent these vast expenditure are actually making us safer, but there is no dependable answer available.

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Category: Economy, Military, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    If one wants to put a number on safety, one has to understand what the numbers mean. Start with quantifying risks, as in the The Paulos Safety Index. We regularly discuss innumeracy on this blog, and that lack of basic numerical awareness is a basic policy problem in many categories.

    A much cheaper response to the perceived threats of air terrorism (for example) would be to educate people in what the numbers are, and what they mean. Post 9-11, all passengers know that a hijack means they are dead. I believe a sufficient number would emulate Flight 93 to prevent such an attempt again. And boarding passes could be printed with tips for stopping hijacks, to assure an even safer flight, at the expense of a little temporary peace of mind.
    Cost to the taxpayers: $0.00
    Additional cost to airlines: $0.00
    Cost in lives: Arguably zero, as this is a good deterrent.

    What if a passenger sneaks a weapon on board? It has been repeatedly proven that the very expensive passenger and luggage scanning systems have easily detected holes. I could mention several ways to get weapons and even explosives aboard a flight given today’s stringent inconveniences. I’m talking about ways that would clearly yield better chances of bringing down a plane than the shoe and underwear bombers.

    But I won’t for several reasons:

    1. Many of them are already easy to find online
    2. Why make it even easier for malcontents?
    3. I don’t particularly feel like being interviewed by Homeland Security; they have no sense of humor

    It is likely that eventually someone will blow up another plane. But the chance of it happening to any particular passenger is much lower than the chance of her dying on the trip to the airport.

    Note: 2,977 workers, responders, passengers, and bystanders died in and from the effects of the 9/11 attack. 42,116 died in their cars that year. Both of these are dwarfed by the Casualties of the Iraq War, an elective incursion that had nothing to do with 9-11 and has created a great breeding ground for jihadic disaffects.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Dan: Thanks for the thoughtful response. Perhaps at the airport authorities should post a sign showing the annual cost to each American Citizen of the “War on Terror,” along with the minute risk of dying on the plane due to terrorist activity. And also post information regarding unrepaired damage to America’s infrastructure and lost educational and job opportunities due to the “War on Terror” sucking tax revenue out of these critically important areas.

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