Free Minds & Free Markets

Stop Panicking—You’re Probably Not Going to Die Today: New at Reason

Americans have a poor sense of risk, and some people like it that way.

AfraidRatz Attila / Dreamstime.comA. Barton Hinkle writes about how Americans across the ideological spectrum overly fear bad things happening, statistics be damned:

Take terrorism—reaction to which has given us the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, waterboarding, the TSA, police militarization, and domestic surveillance that makes Facebook's data harvesting look like the magic X-ray glasses they advertise in comic books.

Yet how big is the terrorist threat to the average American? Vanishingly small: For the four-decade period from 1975 through 2015, the odds of an American dying in a terrorist attack carried out by a foreigner on U.S. soil have been 1 in 3.6 million. If that foreign terrorist is a refugee, the odds increase to 1 in 3.64 billion. And if that foreign terrorist is an illegal immigrant, the odds rise to 1 in 10.9 billion.

By contrast, the odds of being killed by a wild animal are about 1 in 30,000. In 2014, terrorists killed 17 Americans in the U.S. That same year, lightning killed 25 U.S. residents, dogs killed 36, and animals other than dogs killed 83.

Photo Credit: Ratz Attila /


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