Terrorists Still Incredibly Unlikely to Hurt You

Despite all of the fear-mongering and the huge military & defense budgets we expand every year, terrorists pose a risk so small and insignificant that we may as well worry about the risk of lightning or asteroids.  Actually, spending some of this money on science might not be a bad thing, and our efforts against the weather will probably have more of an effect than our efforts to change people’s behavior and insulate ourselves perfectly from political violence.

FiveThirtyEight calculates the odds of being killed in an airborn terrorist attack at about 1 incident per 16,553,385 departures.

[T]he odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000.

People have a hard time judging risks in relative terms – and these leads people to obsess over seemingly horrible disasters that are incredibly unlikely to happen.  In the mundane world of reality and statistics, anyone concerned about security and mortality should be taking a look at our cars, roads, and medical system.  Its not a ‘maybe they’ll kill us more in the future’ situation there, its something that is guaranteed to kill a whole lot of Americans this year and every year following.

So forget the fact that our militarism kills innocent civilians, or ignore the fact that our massive spending does little to secure us, but at least accept the fact that there was really nothing to be afraid of in the first place.  Let’s redirect the violent efforts of our war on terror to more constructive purposes – and the progress we create will do more to keep us safe and respected around the world than anything our guns could accomplish now.

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