The Wall Street Journal
had a compelling essay this weekend about the hysteria surrounding the attempted bombing
of a Christmas Day flight into Detroit and the subsequent tightening of airline security.
In his article "Undressing the Terrorist Threat", author Paul Campos (a law professor at University of Colorado) puts the bombing into statistical perspective, noting that:
(1) America is a country of 310 million people, in which thousands of horrible things happen every single day; and
(2) The chances that one of those horrible things will be that
you're subjected to a terrorist attack can, for all practical purposes,
be calculated as zero.
And while politicians elbow each other for a chance to grandstand about the failed terrorist plot, they choose to ignore other issues that kill a lot
more Americans each year than terrorists ever could hope to.
These include the nation's 50 or so daily murders resulting -- in part
-- from America's notoriously lax gun laws (giving the U.S. a homicide
rate six times greater than that of most developed nations) and the 120
or so daily fatalities stemming from traffic accidents -- many of which
could be eliminated by lower speed limits.
Instead our elected
officials are locked in what Campos calls the "politics of cowardice"
-- the cynical exploitation of fear for political gain -- that makes
terrorists winners even when their plans fail or are foiled. Meanwhile,
millions of American travelers are greatly inconvenienced over
something that in all likelihood will never happen to them.
A companion piece
in the Wall Street Journal
lays out the statistics. Since 2000, the odds of you dying as a result
of a terrorist act aboard a commercial American airliner is 1 in 25
million. The odds of getting struck by lightning: 1 in 500,000.
you have a 50 times greater chance of being struck by lightning than
dying from a terrorist attack on an airplane. Scary numbers indeed.