Risk

'Fairness' Outweighs Objective Data When Americans Evaluate Risks

New study explains why I can't convince people that terrorism is not worth worrying much about.

|

TSADreamstime
Wisconsinart/Dreamstime

The U.S. government spends over $100 billion a year fighting terrorism, a risk that kills about as many Americans as lightning strikes or accidents involving home appliances, notes the Dartmouth political scientist Jeffrey A. Friedman in a fascinating new study, "Priorities for Preventive Action: Explaining Americans' Divergent Reactions to 100 Public Risks."

Actually, he got that slightly wrong. In 2017, the government spent $175 billion on counterterrorism.

Like many other earnest media explainers, I have believed that many of my fellow Americans simply don't understand how minuscule the risk of dying in a terrorist attack is and that providing them with the relevant data would calm them down. Once voters understand how low the terrorism risk really is, I thought, surely they will want some of those social resources to go to addressing higher mortality risks, such as heart disease and traffic accidents. I was puzzled why this strategy has not worked. Friedman's research has gone a long way toward dispelling my puzzlement.

Friedman surveyed 3,000 Americans about how they perceive 100 life-threatening risks along nine dimensions:

RiskPriorityQuestions
Friedman

He found that Americans actually have a pretty good idea about which risks cause more harm than others. But he also found that "Americans' risk priorities reflect value judgments, particularly regarding the extent to which some victims deserve more protection than others and the degree to which it is (in)appropriate for government to intervene in different areas of social life. These subjective beliefs shape the perceived benefits and costs of government spending in ways that go beyond objective metrics like lives saved or dollars spent."

For example, perceptions of agency shape citizens' willingness to tolerate public risk. He points out that "the mortality rate among motorcyclists is far larger than the probability that a randomly-chosen American will be killed by a terrorist. Yet motorcyclists knowingly accept risk, whereas terrorists' victims bear no responsibility for their deaths." The "unfairness" of terrorist attacks leads many Americans to judge that it is reasonable that government should prioritize counterterrorism over motorcycle safety, even with the knowledge that terrorism claims many fewer lives.

Consequently, in his survey of 100 risks, Americans assign addressing motorcycle accidents to 79th place as a priority, whereas terrorism is in third place. As it happens, 5,286 people died in motorcycle accidents in 2016, and 59 people died in terrorist attacks in the U.S. that year. (The latter figure includes the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida.)

Friedman concludes that his "findings raise clear questions about how voters develop the subjective beliefs that appear to drive their policy preferences. What makes some people think that dying in a terrorist attack is more 'unfair' than dying from a preventable disease? What makes some people think that governments have more responsibility to avert potential future harm caused by climate change rather than funding proven methods for saving lives today? And how malleable are these judgments? The answers to these questions have major significance for debates like what it would take to convince the American public to accept lower defense expenditures, to ramp up efforts to combat global warming, or to pursue any other major recalibration in risk priorities."

Nevertheless, silly people like me remain deluded into thinking that there is such a thing as objective risk data that should be given substantial weight when choosing among public policy proposals. I hope still that my fellow citizens will recalibrate their views on whether it's wise to spend tens of billions of dollars on counterterrorism measures.

Advertisement

NEXT: Los Angeles Owes Billions in Pension Debts. Now It's Asking Citizens for Permission to Run a Bank.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Fair is the stupidest word humans ever invented, except for staycation.”

  2. How much money is spent per year on lightning protection that you are not complaining about?

    1. And how effective is spending more money on lightning protection going to be?

      IE if we spend 1 billion to protect the population against lightning and we spend 1 billion to protect the population against terrorism, what’s the net effect of lives saved?

  3. It is called morality Ron. It is why ultilitarianism is generally evil.

    He points out that “the mortality rate among motorcyclists is far larger than the probability that a randomly-chosen American will be killed by a terrorist. Yet motorcyclists knowingly accept risk, whereas terrorists’ victims bear no responsibility for their deaths.”

    The unjust death of a single person is qualitatively different and more serious than the unlucky death of someone who voluntarily assumed a risk. I am flabbergasted that anyone could not understand that.

    1. It is a morally and intellectually stunted argument to conflate acts of God and accidents with premeditated murder and mayhem and suggest one should consider them exactly the same way.

      1. It is unbeleivably stunted. By Ron’s logic if Germany had offered to end the war and give back Europe in return for the allied countries turning over all of their Jews, it would have been okay to accept the offer provided you knew the Nazis would make good on their end of the bargain. It would have saved millions of lives.

    2. I think Ron absolutely understands that, he’s just making the case for it in the article with a bit of creative storytelling. It’s an interesting study, although the result can be distilled down into two words: Duh, McFly!.

    3. So when you flabbergast yourself by intentionally misunderstanding someone, are you a terrorist or just plain unlucky to get caught at it?

      1. Shut up Hihn. You have no idea what anyone is talking about. Just go away.

        1. You used to be entertaining. Now you just shit on every comment you can find, like you think there’s some kind of contest for most responses in 24 hours.

          1. You were never entertaining and have always been a crazy, stupid bastard.

    4. How many motorcyclists deaths is one terrorism victim worth?

      Or, how much money, time, effort, and infringement on civil liberties is worth preventing a murder?

      1. You can’t compare the two. They are qualitatively different.

    5. In the eyes of degenerates like Ron, Muslims committing terrorism, mass murder, etc are just like lightning strikes. He seriously thinks that this can’t be helped. It’s like flash floods. And, who are you to tell people to avoid swimming in the river if there’s a rainstorm coming. Not many people drown in floods every year. The odds are really low.

      This is where Reason has ended up. Pathetic.

      1. The same arguments Ron makes about terrorism can be made about lynchings in the Jim Crow South. At any given time there were no more than a couple of hundred lynchings a year in this country. The chances of any individual being lynched were infantesimal. By Ron’s logic, lynchings were not a problem worth addressing.

        Of course they were because there is more to life than numbers.

        1. Yeah, but a death is a death, and whether you were murdered or struck by lightning, you’re still just as dead. It’s obvious that they have the same moral quality because they have the same outcome. Because of this, they must be treated the same by society, by the government, by your family.

          Science proves me right, and science now proves that you plebs just can’t understand.

          –Ron Bailey, Science Reporter

          1. Fuck off Cathy.

  4. There’s a piece missing here to fairly evaluate the options: how would the risks change if risk-reduction resources were altered? If the $100B/$175B were no longer spent on counterterrorism, would the risk stay the same, double, rise 100-fold? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect many Americans would not be willing to find out, unfortunately.

    1. That is another fallacy in this piece. It assumes that because terrorism is rare, the methods put in place to prevent it are unneeded. This begs the question of whether the measures are actually effective and preventing terrorism that would otherwise occur and just assumes it isn’t. It is the exact same thing as saying because your house has never been robbed, there is no reason to lock your doors.


      1. That is another fallacy in this piece. It assumes that because terrorism is rare, the methods put in place to prevent it are unneeded.

        Not necessarily, that’s just one assumption you could make. One might also make the more compelling assumption that those methods are mostly ineffective RE: the TSA’s proven track record of abject and complete failure.

        1. Whether those methods are effective is the entire question. So assuming that they are “mostly ineffective” is just begging the question and assuming it has the answer you want it to be.

          1. Well in the case of the TSA, ‘mostly ineffective’ is me being nice about their repeated failure at every security test they’ve been put through.

          2. Assuming it to be at all effective is also begging the question. It’s unfalsifiable.

            1. That is true. That is why you have to look at the facts and circumstances and why it is a very hard call to make.

            2. The argument that some would-be terrorists are persuaded via increased security to not make the attempt is possible, but the fact they have caught no terrorists at all over the course of a decade+ makes me think it’s not worth that ‘unseen’ benefit for billions of dollars. Call me a conservative, I suppose.

              1. If it is the case that terrorists have moved to other means, then that is a very effective argument for airport security.

                1. I mean, we’re talking about objective and measurable failures here. There may be an unquantifiable deterrent, but it’s tremendously unlikely that any TSA deterrent is as effective as a locked cabin and anonymous armed Air Marshalls.

                  It was always, from the very beginning, illogical to give up civil liberties for security theatre that could never be as effective as the already implemented solution that violated no one’s civil liberties.

                  It was a freedom grab precisely because power was sitting there waiting to be claimed, and people were just scared enough to allow it and damn the constitutional issues at stake.

                  1. I tend to agree that TSA is a waste of money. But that is becasue I do not think it is effective not because I think terrorism isn’t a threat.

                    1. Terrorism is objectively less of a threat than someone breaking into your house tomorrow and blowing your brains out because they wanted to rob your house. It’s far, far more likely in fact.

                      Does this justify having a separate police force trained in anti-terrorism? Maybe. Does it justify a blatant and widespread disregard for the civil liberties of ~350 million people? According to government and it’s apologists, yes.

                      I obviously disagree, and on this issue it’s not just my fiscal conservatism driving me but also my respect for civil liberties. It’s bad for both my foundational issues, so yeah I’m mad about it.

                    2. Terrorism is objectively less of a threat than someone breaking into your house tomorrow and blowing your brains out because they wanted to rob your house. It’s far, far more likely in fact.

                      That is assuming facts that you have no way of knowing. You don’t know what the threat of terrorism. All you know is what has happened in the past and then the blind faith that the past is a predictor of the future.

                    3. When I say objectively, I mean it’s at the very least a statistical likelihood that can be used to judge risk. It’s an empirical, although flawed, measure.

                      What you’d need to answer is why terrorism in particular is a worse crime that justifies more intrusive violations of our civil rights over just an average murder or even mass shooting.

                      Morally there is no difference based on the intent of each crime yet the outcomes on our civil rights differ quite a bit.

        2. As much as I loathe the TSA, is it not fair to wonder if there is a deterrent effect just by everyone knowing they are looking, even if they are incompetent?

          When police openly patrol neighborhoods the crime rate goes down, even if they aren’t arresting people. Their very presence reduces the number of robberies.

          1. Is it not fair to wonder if launching nuclear missiles into the sun might keep it from going nova one day, thus we must spend billions on launching nuclear missiles into the sun?

            1. So, no police, and their effect on deterring crime is irrelevant because it is inconvenient to you?

              1. Wrong, it’s unproven benefits versus proven benefits.

                The benefits of police can be measured, hence why I admit that it’s at least possible that a trained anti-terrorism police force could perhaps be useful. In the case of the TSA, we’re ascribing a benefit that isn’t reflected in any actual data to the TSA.

                Hence the hyperbolic comparison to shooting nukes into the sun which is an unproven benefit with huge attached costs, just like the TSA.

                The willful and explicit violation of the Bill of Rights itself should be the telling argument as well, as all government is expected to be constrained by it. Why not the TSA, one might ask.

                1. The police benefits aren’t proven until you remove them. And just because their presence was associated with a reduction in one location doesn’t mean it will do the same in another. So, should we end police patrols just to see what happens? I mean, we need to prove it every time, right?


                  1. The police benefits aren’t proven until you remove them.

                    Meaning that convictions for breach of law don’t happen and prisons are full of theoretical people that only may have broken a law? While it’s certain that some number of them are innocent, it’s equally certain the most are not. People in prison aren’t out committing crimes, innocent or guilty, hence benefit.

                    Now, how many terrorists have the TSA stopped? How many are in jail right now for crimes the TSA caught them committing, or caught while planning to commit a terrorist act? Hell, how many bombs have they found?

                    Zero.

                    Assuming that there is a deterrent effect of equal or greater magnitude than the knowledge there’s a Marshall on the air craft with a lethal weapon is frankly a ludicrous assumption and impossible to defend logically. Plus the cockpit door is now reinforced and locked. That was all that was ever needed.

                    1. Why would terrorist cells with limited resources and willing warriors purposely go into the high security of an airport just to get caught?

                      Their strategy is clearly to bide their time for targets of opportunity that have less security.

      2. That’s an important thing about risk assessment though. For instance, there seems to be little evidence that I have seen that the increase in Airport security has led to a safer environment. And while locking your doors is a pretty easy failsafe, that has little cost associated with the action, Airport security has many real costs, not the least of which is the man-hours lost for everyone having to deal with this security.

        This is also true on the larger scale. There 175 billion or whatever cost given doesn’t even capture all the lost time, effort, and personal rights of the implementation. And we do so with very little evidence that this improves things. We are basically trusting the government that it is necessary. And I seriously question that.

        1. There are arguments why airport security isn’t effective. 9-11 was the result of a single failure in security and people thinking that hijackers would always let them go. That threat could have been eliminated by securing the cockpit doors and passengers knowing to fight back. So it is difficult to justify the increase in airport security using 9-11 beyond those measures.

          The point is that whatever the arguments for and against increased airport security, the relative odds of someone dying in a terrorist attack in the past is not one of them. If you want to argue that the security is ineffectve because of concrete reasons, that is fine. But claiming that because nothing has happened it is unneeded is a complete logical fallacy.

          1. And I’m saying the opposite is true as well. And if there is no evidence to support it, but there is a real cost in time, effort, and civil liberties, then I think that’s a poor deal.

            This inherently gets at a question of what rights are worth. I almost certainly rate them much higher than most, versus security.

            1. Except that you forget that other people have rights too. IF someone is murdered their rights are taken in the most drastic way possible. And it is the legitimate responsibility of government to protect people from those who are dangers to them. If it is just about you and your rights and nothing else, then we shouldn’t have government or law enforcement at all.

              1. There is LITERALLY an item in the Bill of Rights SPECIFICALLY prohibiting the TSA’s methods.

                Yet, no one cares.

                If you want proof that the Republic is already dead, and is merely an undead shambling along that sort of looks like it, than this should be the final nail.

                The search of your person and seizure of your property do not require probable cause, full stop.

                1. Wether TSA is prohibited by the 4th Amendment is a technical legal debate and not one that there is any kind of consensus that it does. If you think it does, good for you. But that really doesn’t have much to do with the argument we are having here.

                  1. Would you agree with the same statement rephrased as such:

                    Whether the FBI is prohibited by the 4th Amendment is a technical legal debate and not one that there is any kind of consensus that it does.

                    It constrains all of the federal government (arguably state government as well via the 14th, but far less settled), so if there is no consensus on the TSA (A federal agency) than what you are saying is that the Bill of Rights is a dead letter of law.

                    Seems we’re saying the same thing after all?

      3. Almost all of the methods we spend gazillions of tax dollars on to allegedly prevent terrorism are what is known as “security theater.” Showing your genitals to rent-a-cops and giving up your shampoo at the airport isn’t preventing the next 9/11. Hate to break it to you.

        1. Tony, can you please restrict yourself to shitting all over threads that have some partisan implications? That is all you care about anyway and it would be nice to have at least some threads where everyone was spared of your idiocy.

          1. Not all of us can be as nonpartisan as you, John.

            1. Tony, you are a moron who can’t talk about any subject without making it about TRUMP and your various partisan nuerosis.

              1. I just cogently analyzed the state of security theater. You are the only one talking about Trump.

                That’s a ginsburn!

                1. Poor tony.

      4. This calls to mind a quote by old-time department store magnate John Wanamaker — “Half the money I spend on advertising it wasted, but I don’t know which half.”

        1. The half that involved sneak peeks at genitals and shampoo banning.

    2. ^ This is biggest glaring error of reasoning in the piece, among a large number of big glaring errors of reasoning.

      What was the name of this site again?

  5. wrt ‘worry’

    Obligatory

  6. As this week’s events have shown, terrorism should be a major concern for the US. Drumpf’s (fraudulent) election has emboldened the most violent, hateful elements of our society, and their campaign of terror shows no signs of stopping. We need to get Democrats back in control of the government so they can allocate law enforcement funds in a more reality-based way to combat these threats.

    Of course conservatives seize on the fact that a baseball practice full of Republicans was the target of someone who might have had vaguely Bernie-esque political views. But that’s a false equivalence. What has happened this week is far more serious in scale ? and far easier to connect to the irresponsible rhetoric of one political party.

    And don’t forget the almost unimaginably high body count that anti-abortion terrorists are responsible for with their bombings of reproductive health clinics. If it were up to me we’d take all the money spent fighting so-called “Islamic extremism” and devote it to protecting Planned Parenthood.

    1. Good trolling but the wrong thread. Stick to the partisan threads.

  7. “New study explains why I can’t convince people that terrorism is not worth worrying much about.”

    There’s a study about your lost crediblity from many years of uncritically accepting bad science?

    1. It is not even bad science so much as bad logic. Ron forever buys into the fallacy that because something isnt’ happening now it cannot happen in the future and that the efforts to prevent it are therefore unneeded. And he forever thinks all deaths are the same such that preventing someone’s murder has no more moral weight than preventing an accidental death.

    2. Absolutely. He’s a joke. For the most part, he simply repeats what others tell him the ‘science’ means.

  8. The U.S. government spends over $100 billion a year fighting terrorism, a risk that kills about as many Americans as lightning strikes or accidents involving home appliances…

    WELL I GUESS UNDERWRITERS LABORATORIES MUSTA TOOK 2001 OFF. Also, let the rider decide.

  9. I wonder how those $$$$ assignments would differ if it were their own money.

  10. I’d rather the United States never spend a dime attempting to protect me from home appliances. If there’s an accident, it’s operational error or a design flaw. Both of these have their own remedies-the former is a Darwin award, the latter is a lawsuit.

    Protecting citizens on US soil from attacks made by foreign agents is a legitimate role of government. I’m happy to point out the legal oversteps, inefficient spending, and blind incompetency that runs rampant in counter-terrorism efforts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Even if doing nothing is preferable to what IS happening, the ideal option is that it’s done right.

    1. Exactly. And someoen kicking in my door and murdering me is an injustice in a way that my dying because some assembly worker in a factory was negligent. I am dead in both cases but my murder is an affront to justice and the safety of everyone where as my accidental death, while a tragedy, is not.

      1. It’s weird that Ron’s headline uses the word “fairness” when that’s not even at issue. Accidental deaths are never fair. It’s entirely dependent on what people evaluate as a legitimate use of government.

        There are definitely some who think that it’s legitimate for governance to include protecting people from themselves, but most sane people think that those efforts are a significant violation of rights.

        1. I found that odd too. It is not about “fairness”, it is about justice. As you say, no one’s death is fair. Ron has a deeply odd moral outlook.

          1. IMO this is actually completely rational, once you realize that the perspective is a purely materialist one.

            Justice is a purely metaphysical concept, and you can’t expect a materialist to have a real understanding of it. At best they will hold some perversion up as the real thing, and at worst they will deny its very existence.

            1. Very true. If you are a crude materialist, then there are no abtract principles that trancend results in the material world.

      2. And you’re seriously worried about a terrorist kicking in your door and murdering you?

        Not to mention, our bombing people we have no business bombing is a large reason someone has any interest in even fantasizing about kicking in your door and murdering you. How about we stop going around being assholes and spending billions murder-droning people?

        As someone said above, many of the anti-terrorism methods which are currently employed are demonstrably useless. So while I agree that an accident and a terrorist attack are different, the main point is that there are trade offs in either case, and we are currently irrationally weighing those trade offs when it comes to terrorism.

        1. Are you seriously too dense to understand argument by example? Do you I need to explain it to you? The point is that the situations are qualitiatively different not to comment on the possibility of terrorists kicking down my door. I put it in simple words that you can understand; murder is not hte same as accidental death.

          And our methods may or may not be demonstrably usless. If that is the case, it is not because terrorism isn’t happening now. That is complete fallacy and no different than saying that because you home hasn’t been robbed, you shouldn’t lock your door.

          The point that you completely miss here is that Ron isn’t just claiming these methods don’t work. He is claiming that the low incidence of terrorism compared to accidental deaths means they are not justified regardless of how effective they are. He is saying that death by accident is the same as death by murder. And that is nothing but utilitarian amorality.

          1. The point that you completely miss here is that Ron isn’t just claiming these methods don’t work. He is claiming that the low incidence of terrorism compared to accidental deaths means they are not justified regardless of how effective they are. He is saying that death by accident is the same as death by murder. And that is nothing but utilitarian amorality.

            Seriously? I didn’t get that at all. What I read was that the odds of being a victim of terrorism are so fantastically low that people shouldn’t worry about it, and because the odds are so low we might want to reevaluate how much money we spend on preventing it. That’s it. Nothing about prevention methods working or not working, nothing about anything being justified or not justified, nothing about equating one kind of death to another. Lighten up Francis.

            1. What I read was that the odds of being a victim of terrorism are so fantastically low that people shouldn’t worry about it, and because the odds are so low we might want to reevaluate how much money we spend on preventing it.

              I read that too. And you miss what that means. There is more to a threat than the odds of it happening. Murders are not the same as lightening strikes. To put this in terms you will understand, the odds of being shot by a cop are almost as low as being killed by a terrorist. Yet, you seem to worry about that a lot and be outraged and want soemthign done to prevent it from happening. Why is that? It is because the injustice of someone being murdered has an importance all its own that trascends the odds of it happening to you. The same is true of terrorism. You would never buy this bullshit “what are the odds of it happening to you” argument when it comes to police murdering people and you should not buy it here.

              1. Yet, you seem to worry about that a lot and be outraged and want soemthign done to prevent it from happening.

                Yes and no. What outrages me is the fact that police routinely get away with it. I would like them to face consequences for their actions. Hopefully that would prevent them from murdering people.

                You imply that Ron doesn’t want terrorists to be prosecuted. That he’s just fine with terrorists killing people. That’s just dumb and you know it. He’s not even saying that no money should be spent on preventing terrorism either. He’s just asking if it’s really worth it in the grand scheme of things. That’s not saying that murder is OK. Jesus, dude. You know better than that.

                1. Ron is saying terrorism is a problem “that isn’t worth worrying about”. If you agree, fine. But stop telling me about how concerned you are about cops shooting people because given the low odds of that happening to you, that isn’t worth worrying about either. Ron’s point isn’t just that these methods are not effective, he doesn’t really have any reasoning why they are not. His point is that the efforts are not worth it because it just isn’t a serious problem. And that logic applies to cop shootings just as much as terrorism.

                  1. I’m not concerned about cops killing people in that I want something proactively done to prevent it, and I’m not particularly worried about a cop shooting me tomorrow. Stop putting words into my mouth. What concerns me is the lack of justice when those who enforce the law go and break it. Ron’s point wasn’t that terrorist prevention is ineffective. His point was that it is ridiculously expensive given the actual risk. And I agree with that. That doesn’t mean the government should do absolutely nothing. That doesn’t condone murder. You’re having a total conniption over arguments no one is making.

          2. Lol, yeah, I understood your argument, tough guy. And I’m not commenting on ron’s utilitarian argument. I agreed with you that the two deaths are qualitatively different. I’m saying that (most/all?) the methods we are currently using vs terrorism are not worth it, whereas locking my fucking door is worth it. Locking my door costs nothing, even though my house being robbed or whatever is also extremely unlikely. Actually, my house being robbed is much more likely than me being attacked by terrorists. I’m more likely of being attacked by cops than terrorists, if we’re talking about bad moral agents.

            Anyway, enough rambling. I get you’re all for spending countless billions destroying the brown hordes because they’re coming for us. Lol. I disagree.

            1. You think they are not effective. I would agree with you in the case of TSA. But, there are some things we are doing that are effective. Keeping people out of the country altogether that appear to be a threat works.

              And your claim that if we just stop bombing people they will leave us alone is completely contradicted by the experience of dozens of countries that have experienced horrible acts of terrorism despite never bombing anyone. Who did Bali bomb? Who did Germany bomb? Or Finland?

              It would be nice if we could just leave everyone alone and be left alone ourselves but the world doens’t work that way and never will.

              1. That’s why I’m open to saying most and not all.

                I don’t think that the US reducing its bellicosity will remove all terrorism, but since it is at least partially responsible for making more terrorism, let’s try that, shall we? It’s also morally superior – not killing innocents.

        2. You can argue for or against the utility of a particular method of prevention without equating lightning with premeditated murder and suggesting that they should be treated the same.

  11. I’ll say it again you can avoid Lighting strikes Terrorist are a little less dependable hence the difference in risk assesment

    1. You can avoid both through activity/inactivity. The difference is not whether they can be avoided, the difference is in the moral quality and the will. A lightning strike is an act of nature, like the wind blowing, the rain falling, a river flowing, the sun setting, the moon rising. These things simply are, they do not have a will, and so they cannot have a moral quality to them. All you can do is shelter yourself from them, or go toward them.

      A terrorist (or murderer) is a completely different thing. He has a will, and his will is to do harm and inflict fear upon others, to tyrannize them until he has his way. He is not a force of nature, he is a man, who wills his harm on others, and with that will comes a moral quality that a storm or a river or the sun cannot have.

  12. chicks in short skirts + Tucker Carlson talking up the dangers of washing machine deaths = new scare

  13. Remember those bygone days when people said the terrorists would win if we gave up liberty in exchange for protection from terrorist boogeymen?

    1. likely Kavanagh does.

      1. Kavanaugh’s opinions on the PATRIOT Act indicate that he actually thinks giving up liberty in exchange for protection is a great idea, actually. It’s why many of us were not happy that people went after him for spurious bullshit.

        1. yes my complaint also.

    2. No, actually I don’t. And like so many of your posts asserting something happened, ypu don’t actially support your assertion.

  14. What werer the chances you’d have been killed by Ted Bundy? Hell, I don’t even know why they bothered to arrest him.

    1. What were you chances of being lynched back in the day or murdered by the Klan. Why did we worry about such trival things?

    2. What are your chances of being shot by a cop? But reason seems to think it is a big deal. Funny that.

    3. You saying we should spend hundreds of billions of dollars in identifying the next Ted Bundy so we can arrest him before he kills anyone? That would be a more apt comparison.

      1. You seem to think we should spend a lot of money and effort preventing the next killer cop. And yes, we spend a ton of money preventing and hopefully catching the next Ted Bundy. It is called law enforcement.

        1. You seem to think we should spend a lot of money and effort preventing the next killer cop.

          No, I’ve never said that. I want killer cops to see justice. Hopefully cops would think twice about committing murder if they weren’t sure they could get away with it.

          And yes, we spend a ton of money preventing and hopefully catching the next Ted Bundy. It is called law enforcement.

          Law enforcement only prevents in that people think twice because they know there will be an investigation. But it doesn’t try to find criminals before they do something. It is purely reactive. Whereas terrorist prevention is proactive. Not. The. Same. Thing.

  15. No one should buy house insurance, because the odds of your house being destroyed are really low in any given year.

    -Ron Bailey

    There’s no need to avoid kayaking in heavy rainstorms because almost no one dies in kayaking accidents.

    -Ron Bailey

    We don’t need murder laws or enforcement in this country because more than 3 times as many people die in car crashes every year and we don’t ban cars.

    -Ron Bailey

    1. We don’t need a social safety net even though almost everyone has to deal with their own or someone else’s poverty in their lives.

      ?libertarians

      1. You know, I was going to say something to mock you Tony, but on second thought, you hit on something interesting whether or not you intended it. The libertarian ethos is an inherently materialist one, but here they reject materialism because… why?

        If money and material goods and comforts are the moral end, why shouldn’t we have a social safety net offered by the state? Because the NAP? Where do they even derive the NAP from? Because it feels good? It’s certainly not from the Golden Rule, for they reject Christianity.

        1. because Epicurus said so.

          1. Oh, the irony… Let’s apply the Epicurean “Problem of Suffering” to your own little ideology…

            It would imply malevolence to the materialist, if we hold them to their own criticism.

            1. >>>If money and material goods and comforts are the moral end

              i didn’t read this paragraph

              >>>inherently materialist one, but here they reject materialism because… why?

              i answered this. think we’re saying the same thing

              1. Yeah. So, as a materialist of the Epicurean type, let’s apply Epicurus’ criticism of God to your own ethos.

                Paraphrased… “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?”

                Keep in mind that to Epicurus physical suffering was the definition of evil.

                So, if you are able to prevent the suffering of others, but you are not doing so, you are malevolent. Would you like to classify libertarianism as a malevolent ethos?

                1. i am me. i don’t speak for libertarians. “preventing suffering of others” and “social safety net” are not exclusive and neither require a governing body to make happen.

                  1. The question wasn’t about government, it was about YOU. I aimed this at you, and your philosophy. Are you doing all you can, are those you follow your philosophy doing all they can, do they believe in doing all they can to help ease the suffering of others? Because if they are not, according to Epicurus’ criticism of God, they (and you) are malevolent.

                    So, are you malevolent Dillinger? Or do you want to reject your own defense of this joke of a philosophy and maybe try a new one?

                    1. Epicurus would say so, I’d tell him to kiss my ass I do my best.

                      Also I’m late for tennis.

                    2. So, you dont derive your ethos from epicurus, or only when it is convenient? Not very principled, or your principles are derived from elsewhere.

        2. Libertarianism isn’t just materialist, that’s just the part you’re looking at right now. Recall that the NAP is a rephrasing of the golden rule ascribed to Jesus. It’s a moral framework just as much as it’s a framework of law, which really those two things are one and the same. I’m not even sure they can be extricated from one another.

          1. No, no, no. My question is from whence do you derive the NAP?

            1. I think it’s fairly obvious that it was lifted from Christianity since libertarianism is intensely Christian, even while plenty of people either willfully ignore that fact or have done their best to erase the connection over the last few centuries.

              I mean, god is understood to be the origin of natural rights whether you like it or not and without that what exactly does libertarianism have as it’s bedrock?

              1. So, you “lifted it from Christianity”. Which means you didn’t reason your way to it, it just sounded nice, and so you use it? Same with “natural rights”?

                Libertarianism rejects Christianity. It literally subverts it, placing the created above the Creator. Do you see the contradiction in the logic here?

                1. Atheist Libertarians kick God out of the universe and then sneak him back in sans the parts of him they don’t like and call him “natural rights” or “first principles”.

              2. I’m curious BYODB, since it is “intensely Christian” and keeps the Golden Rule, does libertarianism keep the other Commandments?

                Does it reject adultery and divorce? Fornication? Do you think that these are integral parts of libertarianism? Because they are integral parts of Christianity, and have been for a couple thousand years.

                1. I think you’ve got the right of this John. “EWW Evul Christian Taliban telling us how to live our lives!”

                  But MUH NATURAL RIGHTS.
                  But MUH SKY DADDY WORSHIPPERS
                  But MUH ALL MEN CREATED EQUAL
                  But MUH SEXUAL IMMORALITY IS NOT DEGENERATE

                  God is there when He is useful and His commands are easy to follow or convenient. And He is gone the moment He or His commands are inconvenient. It makes libertarianism perhaps one of the most dishonest ideologies out there.

                2. It depends Kivlor, when I say it’s intensely Christian I mean that the men who were the original thinkers that form the basis of the ethos were themselves intensely Christian, so those overtones permeate it. I myself have often pointed out the contradiction that many libertarians stand on civil rights and natural rights, even while they reject the theoretical basis for those rights.

                  The best answer I have is that people believe it because regardless of the source it’s a reasonable and kind way to live one’s life.

                  In terms of commandments, well, uhh…yeah. Some of those are found within U.S. law with exceptions. In fact they’re found in virtually every countries law in one form or another. Religiously speaking, though, even Christians don’t continue following the ten commandments. It’s sort of the whole thing about being a Christian that the old texts lost a lot of their weight, yeah?


                  So, you “lifted it from Christianity”. Which means you didn’t reason your way to it, it just sounded nice, and so you use it? Same with “natural rights”?

                  I don’t know, go read John Locke yourself and see how many times he mentioned a creator. It’s not a reasoning issue, it’s a literal historical issue. I suppose it depends which early libertarian thinkers you refer to though.

                  1. Oh, I’ve read Locke. But if you’re claiming to be carrying his intellectual torch, that doesn’t really hold up to the policies or rhetoric of libertarians today.

                    1. Oh it absolutely doesn’t, on that we agree.

                  2. The best answer I have is that people believe it because regardless of the source it’s a reasonable and kind way to live one’s life.

                    So it is just a matter of taste? Then it’s not a moral matter?

                    1. So it is just a matter of taste? Then it’s not a moral matter?

                      I’m late to the fray here, but I would personally trace my own realization of the centrality of the NAP to a combination of Christianity, Classical Philosophy, Buddhism, and Taoism. But existentialism even provides an atheistic basis.

                      The root? It’s immoral to cause suffering. Doesn’t matter whether souls are eternal, metaphysical, re-incarnated or fictional. Not because God said so. Not because Jesus said so. Not because Epicurus said so. It’s immoral to cause suffering because we all share the same experiential root and understanding that we don’t want to suffer. Without that basic concept, there is no such thing as morality, there is only obedience.

                    2. What if I told you suffering is not inherently evil, just as pleasure is not inherently good?

                      Collective “want” is no basis for morality. We could all want the moon, but it does not mean that the fulfillment of that want is morally good, let alone in our best interests.

                      Thanks for the response though, you and BYODB have been at least thoughtful in it.

            2. NAP is a technique for humans to take a moral high ground and set a rule to not hurt someone unless they mean to hurt you.

              Religious dogmas is not necessary to treat others as you would want to be treated.

              1. LC this was just painful to read. No. Just no.

                From whence do you derive your moral high ground? If it is merely “Well we like it” or “we say so” it is mere taste or whimsy. It is not moral at that point. It’s no different than eating broccoli or playing tennis.

                Is it the case that morality is subjective, changing from one man’s taste to the next? If so, why should anyone care about your moral compass? If not, from whence do you derive it? Human nature? Human nature is violent, petty, envious, greedy, fearful… are these moral goods to be acted upon simply because they are our nature?

                You pretend that Christendom is unnecessary for your ethos, but your ethos is absolutely unhinged from reality without it.

        3. They derive it from their asses, the source of so many concepts that make absolutely no sense on close examination.

          Who gets to decide what counts as aggression? Most libertarians say property owners (convenient for them), but why don’t so-called trespassers get to come up with their own definition of aggression (say, the annexation of property). Are people free or not?

          1. Furthermore, somehow it’s aggression to set foot on someone else’s yard, but shooting that person in the face isn’t aggression, according to the usual definition. Straight from their goddamn assholes.

            1. You really don’t understand the difference between initiating something and reacting to something, do you.

              1. My point is neither do you, because what counts as initiating is usually completely arbitrary, defined by whomever has the power to define it. And then, bizarrely, once force is initiated according to that definition, there hardly seems to be a limit on the amount of carnage permitted in response, none of which is considered “aggression.”

                1. And then, bizarrely, once force is initiated according to that definition, there hardly seems to be a limit on the amount of carnage permitted in response, none of which is considered “aggression.”

                  If someone is trying to harm me and I protect myself, that is not aggression because I didn’t initiate the violence. You are equating all force with aggression.

                  It’s the same idea as those who think government has the monopoly on force. No, it doesn’t. It has the monopoly on the initiation of force. When anyone else initiates force it it is called aggression, and the person on the receiving end can justly respond with force. That response is not aggression. The initiation is.

                  I guess I can just add this to the list of distinctions your obtuse mind cannot grasp.

                  1. Aggression is aggression. I agree that some measure of aggression in self-defense should be permitted by society, but let’s keep in mind that it’s a permission slip granted to you from government, the agent that decides what is legitimate force and what isn’t.

                    I also like the concept of property, so am cool with cops and courts siding with property owners against trespassers.

                    But we’re still picking sides. One actual controversy is the gay wedding cake thing. Who’s the aggressor, the customer (who’s doing nothing but exactly what the owners intend for people to do–shopping for cakes)? Is the customer aggressing by shopping while being gay? Yet somehow if the shop owners have perfectly peaceful, nonaggressive customers dragged out of their shops for being gay, that’s not an initiation of force? The straight couple who came in 5 minutes ago didn’t do a goddamn thing different, but somehow the gay couple are aggressors and they’re not?

                    1. Yet somehow if the shop owners have perfectly peaceful, nonaggressive customers dragged out of their shops for being gay, that’s not an initiation of force?

                      If the shop owners ask the customers to leave, and they refuse, then they become trespassers. Doesn’t matter why the shop owners asked them to leave.

                      The straight couple who came in 5 minutes ago didn’t do a goddamn thing different, but somehow the gay couple are aggressors and they’re not?

                      Were they asked to leave? Would they leave if asked?

                    2. Asking customers to leave because they are the wrong sexual orientation or race could perfectly credibly be described as aggression against them, and in fact the law often does so.

                    3. let’s keep in mind that it’s a permission slip granted to you from government

                      You can keep that in mind. In my mind it’s a basic right that comes from concepts of self ownership and justice. A right that everyone has, regardless of whether their government recognizes it or not.

                    4. Well I think there’s a right to me being a billionaire that comes straight from the ass of Satan. Prove me wrong. And where’s my money?

                    5. Actually the burden of proof is on you.

                      As for self defense, as long as people own themselves, and as long as assault, rape, murder and robbery are all injustices, it logically follows that people have a right to defend themselves from such crimes. Unless you disagree with the premises. In which case you’re just an asshole.

                    6. The burden of proof is on you too sarc…

                    7. So you disagree with the premises?

                    8. I am saying that you claim people own themselves, and that is for you to prove.

                    9. You have to start from somewhere. Tony’s morality begins and ends with might makes right. Government is his god.

                      I support principles like self ownership, justice as an absence of injustice, and non aggression because a society that respects those things is a civilized one. Not because they come from on high, but because they are logically consistent, and because they work.

                      People who reject those premises tend to be people who wholly support force to get what they want. Yet those people tend to not like it when force is used on them. They are not consistent at all. Every situation is a brand new case, and what matters is how the person feels at the moment. No principles. No logic. No consistency. Just violence and emotion.

                    10. No, the owner is not offering any cake. He’s offering what he does. A doctor does not agree to perform any procedure the patient wants.

                      I’ll be he offered to refer the customer to a bakery down the street. As a doctor refers a pt to a guy who does that one.

                      They obviously chose his as their target and went armed. Yes, they are aggressors.

            2. Lickily, the thing Tony thinks should be are not legally required in theUSA.

              1. What is really sad is that Tony, despite being deeply wrong, is much more reasoned in his views than you, or sarc.

                Tony admits he believes in nothing outside of the material, and so he worships power, for that is all there is. There is no God, no higher power for man to appeal to, just men. In that light, the only “morals” are what we determine them to be. And in the end, all that matters is who can enforce them or not.

                See the logic there? Now, do the same with “self-ownership”. How do you start with that? Why?

                You want to keep the Christian things you like, but you can’t justify them beyond “I like them”.

                1. Tony? Reasoned? Haaaaaaaaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

                  1. Sure, he’s dead wrong, because the premise he starts from is incorrect, but if we assume his premise, his reasoning actually follows.

                    It’s more reasoned than what the libertarians are offering.

          2. You are definitely correct that they seem to derive it out of their asses.

            You’re an atheist right? That would explain your comment on the “who decides what counts as aggression”. Because if it isn’t defined by God, it is defined by man, and we can choose to define aggression and aggressive acts as we see fit.

            1. There is this thing we call language, and it is made up of words. It’s how people communicate. It helps when people are in agreement over what those words mean, otherwise things get very confusing. Like when I had a conversation with some leftist woman about school choice and she was totally on board because to her the word choice meant abortion. So she thought we were talking about free abortions in schools. Once she learned that I was talking about parents, not government, deciding where there kids are educated, she became hostile. To her government knew best about everything.

              So it helps when we agree about what words like aggression mean. Otherwise conversations can get very confusing.

              1. *their*

              2. Sarc, although I mostly agree with your definition of aggression, my point was to demonstrate why Tony says what he says.

                From the materialist view, he is not wrong. We determine what “aggression” means, and when you use the word “aggression” you imply a moral quality to the action. It is a form of violence or prelude to violence that also implies a negative moral quality to the form.

                You are presuming you are correct by even using the word, rather than reasoning there.

        4. “If money and material goods and comforts are the moral end, why shouldn’t we have a social safety net offered by the state? Because the NAP? Where do they even derive the NAP from? Because it feels good? It’s certainly not from the Golden Rule, for they reject Christianity”

          Because you have to force other people to pay for it Cathy, you stupid fuck.

          1. Shouldn’t you be collecting some late book fees?

          2. And the point of the question goes right over Tulpa’s head…

  16. Jesus Christ, people buy lottery tickets, people don’t understand sunk costs, people are ignorant of probabilities and statistics and the difference between correlation and causation. There’s little that’s rational about subjective risk assessment, books have been written on the subject. Hell, there’s regular columns written here about how parents will drive their kids to school rather than letting them walk for fear of the neighborhood pervert getting them without considering that kids are thousands of times more likely to die in a car crash than they are to be kidnapped by the neighborhood pervert. But driving a car they can control (and realize that the average driver considers himself to be an above-average driver) and the neighborhood pervert (who might not even actually exist) is a dark and mysterious Unknown and people fear the unknown to an irrational degree. Sure it’s security theater, but it’s like an actor in a white lab coat telling you Drug A is 135% more effective than Drug B at curing what ails you, it makes you subconsciously feel better even if consciously you know it’s bullshit.

    1. What people miss when talking about risk assessment is the marginal value of money. If told you that you had a one in a hundred chance every year of losing your home, which has a value of say $500,000, the math says that you should be willing to spend five thousand dollars every year on insurance. But if the peace of mind of not worrying about losing my house is worth more to me than the marginal value of say $7,000, I will quite rationally pay $7,000 for the insurance even though the math says anything above five is a bad deal.

      Decisions are about marginal value not absolute cost comparison.

  17. Fairness is among the most intelligent and civilized concepts. It took us away from slavery but there is still much to do.

    Propaganda relies on our recognition of fairness, but it makes the issue emotional and substitutes facts with misinformation intended to influence our perceptions.

    You are told that Germans are cutting off babies arms during WW1, your perception changes and now support war when you were decidedly anti war before.

    Fake news is propaganda.

  18. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to consider all the deaths and injuries that would have occurred had we been doing nothing?
    Shouldn’t we be happy at seeing the success of our expenditures?
    Is this a Fox Butterfield opinion piece?

  19. We can specifically address TSA. It’s a huge problem, it does more harm than good, and is a massive waste of time and money. Reactionary policies almost always are like that.

    In 2001, the modus operandi for dealing with hijacked planes was to comply with their demands, because the idea was focused on the types of hijackers who wanted ransom or free passage to Cuba. Minimal risk of life since the hijacker is planning to live through it, and law enforcement can attempt to track them down after the fact. So they were completely unprepared for hijackers willing to kill themselves by using the plane as a weapon.

    Once you introduce the specter of people willing to die and crash the plane, you just need to adapt your response. Any possible threat of someone wanting to hijack a plane is going to lead to passengers aggressively defending themselves. Armed agents taking any sharp objects and unloaded firearms away are not making the plane more secure, they’re an extra layer where incompetence or corruption can seep in, which is why it’s almost routine for expensive electronic devices to go missing during TSA sweeps.

    1. Abolish TSA, revert airport security to a pre-2001 state, and the risk of another 9/11 does not go up. Nobody is going to be able to capture a loaded plane using box-cutters in order to crash it, not anymore. Cockpit doors are almost always secured, and passengers are no longer willing to comply with hijacker’s demands-essentially forfeiting their personal security over to the airlines.

      This doesn’t mean that there’s never any need for collective action. There are some threats that individuals are poorly equipped to deal with, which is the purpose of government in the first place. Even if these threats are exceedingly rare, some measures to protect against them are justified. The degree to which it is justified is going to depend on your view of government and is open to debate.

  20. But…this makes perfect sense to a libertarian, doesn’t it? We want the law to counter harms inflicted by one on another w/o permission, not to try to prevent self-harm. So yeah, gov’t vs. terror, not motorcycle accidents.

  21. Also, $175B is indeed over $100B, so how does Bailey cast Friedman as wrong?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.