Monday, July 23, 2007

Peanuts kill more Americans than terrorists

A sensible policy approach to the problem might be to stress
that any damage terrorists are able to accomplish likely can be
absorbed, however grimly. While judicious protective and
policing measures are sensible, extensive fear and anxiety over
what may at base prove to be a rather limited problem are misplaced,
unjustified, and counterproductive.

For all the attention it evokes, terrorism actually causes
rather little damage and the likelihood that any individual
will become a victim in most places is microscopic. Those
adept at hyperbole like to proclaim that we live in “the age
of terror.” However, while obviously deeply tragic for those
directly involved, the number of people worldwide who die
as a result of international terrorism is generally only a few
hundred a year, tiny compared to the numbers who die in
most civil wars or from automobile accidents. In fact, in
almost all years, the total number of people worldwide who
die at the hands of international terrorists anywhere in the
world is not much more than the number who drown in
bathtubs in the United States.

Until 2001, far fewer Americans were killed in any grouping
of years by all forms of international terrorism than were
killed by lightning, and almost none of those terrorist deaths
occurred within the United States itself. Even with the September
11 attacks included in the count, the number of
Americans killed by international terrorism since the late
1960s (which is when the State Department began counting)
is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the
same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe
allergic reaction to peanuts.