I came across this short piece in Reason Magazine online from several months ago which puts terrorism and counter-terrorism into context. It’s stark. The odds of being killed in a terrorist attack are lottery odds or higher. What’s even scarier is how much we spend on this crap and how many rights we’ve forked over to unaccountable, secret organizations of government spooks and private, for profit, contractors:
Taking these figures into account, a rough calculation suggests that in the last five years, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. This compares annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000.
In other words, in the last five years you were four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist. …Of course, the police and politicians will cite the lack of deaths from terrorism as evidence that their protective measures are working. Earlier this year, the conservative Heritage Foundation compiled a list of 39 terror plots that had been foiled since September 2001.
Making the huge assumption that all 23 plausible plots would have succeeded in killing an average of 100 Americans each, that means that 2,300 would have died in the last 10 years, or about 230 per year. (This implies a rate that is 10 times higher than the rate between 1970 and 2010, excluding the 9/11 attacks, by the way.) Even at this higher rate, your chances of dying in a terrorist attack would be about 1 in 1.7 million.
And how much does it cost? The article assumes with some justification that even if we exclude Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve spent a cool one trillion dollars and counting, on counter-terrorism since 9-11. I don’t know how much the government has spent on research for new treatments of heart and lung disease, diabetes, and cancer, but I bet it’s not a trillion dollars. Not with this crew of penny pinching Teabaggers obstructing everything under the sun.
Which means in the worst case hypothetical scenario, we’ve spent almost half a billion for each life saved. Double that to a round billion if you include the wars. I’m sure any sane person would happily forgo this protection for a tiny fraction of that dough. The loss in civil liberties is priceless.