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I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cooking the books

Over at the Independent Institute, a libertarian organization, Ivan Eland trivializes the potential of terrorism with the following quote,

According to Ohio State political scientist John Mueller, the lifetime probability that international terrorists will kill any one American is a miniscule one in 80,000—about the same as the same person being killed by a comet. Of course, the chances are even lower if you are an American living in America (instead of overseas) and not residing in New York, Washington, Chicago, or Los Angeles.
The American people should worry about things that have a greater chance of killing them—for example, the average American’s lifetime chances of being killed in an auto accident are one in 100.

Ok, lets see. First we quote an expert and then we quote some statistics. Ergo, Eland MUST be right.

Let's exercise a little critical thinking first. Where is the good Prof from Ohio getting this one in 80,000? Not sure, but when I divide the total population in America by the 80,000, I get 3,750. Say isn't that close to the number of people that died on that terrible morning in New York, in Washington, on the fields of Pennsylvania? So, the argument really is, SINCE 9/11, crude statistics point to a 1 in 80,000 risk. And what was that risk on 9/10? Dividing 300 million by a much much smaller number and we get one in several million. The one in 100 statistic for auto deaths have been fairly stable and predictable for decades.

Apples and oranges, dude. And who says we don't take automobile deaths seriously?

The issue is not what is the snapshot risk, at one point in history, but that the risk is dramatically increasing. Anyone care to speculate what that risk would be if Bush had not taken such an aggressive and draconian policy against terrorism to nip it in the bud before that statistic reached one in 100?

Of course, this disingenuous argument is really intended to buttress up their libertarian isolationist arguments.


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