Friday, January 04, 2008

The ugly face of terrorism.

Part of the problem with government created panics is that they convince individuals in the private sector to act like total jerks. Take some problem, any problem, and make constant fearful statements about it and you can encourage a lot of the morons on the streets to act as stupidly as those in government.

Of course the problem is that when government acts stupidly it imposes that stupidity on everyone. When the private sector does it they only have the ability to impose it on themselves or on their own property. One reason to slash the scope of government is so that they can’t impose their dumbth on the entire nation. In the private sector it is fairly easy to avoid bad policies since you are a voluntary customer or client. In the public sector there is no ability to opt out of bureaucratically imposed madness.

Kim and Trevor Sparshott were recent victims of private sector dumbness. But they were victims of policies that were imposed as the result of a government led campaign to panic the voters. In this case it was done by Bush’s lapdog, the has-been politician Tony Blair. But the Labour government in the UK is still panic-pushing in the hopes of terrifying voters to put them back into office when ever elections are called.

The Sparshotts are retired and live in Spain but their daughter and grandchildren still live in the UK. They came to the UK to visit their family and wanted to surprise their grandchildren, who they knew were with their parents at a local shopping mall. Just showing up at the mall would surprise the kids and they wanted a photo of the surprised looks on their faces -- typical grandparents.

But in the panic-ridden world of modern politics everything is a threat. And the Sparshotts were chucked out of the mall by the security thugs for taking photos. They were told they were engaged in terrorist activities. The Fareham Shopping Centre now has a policy “to support the security of the shops” which means forbidding photography without permission. The mall is saying that the “security” ban on photography is not related to “terrorism”. Right! Sure, I believe them. But mall manager Pam Gillard isn’t talking to the press.

Make no mistake about it, the mall has the right, or ought to have the right, to ban photography if they wish. And those of us who find it ridiculous and absurd, perhaps even offensive, have the right to spend money elsewhere and wish for the mall to go under and find more reasonable owners. But that doesn’t mean the policy isn’t dumbness to the nth level.

If we added all the terrorist casualties in the West together and then divided by the total population we would find that since 9/11 our chances of being a victim to terrorism went from nil to virtually nil. Driving the car to the damn mall is more of a threat.

Michael Rothschild did the numbers. Actually he did the numbers reflecting terrorist attacks far in excess of what is actually happening. He noted that there are 40,000 malls in the United States and he assumed one bomb exploding at a mall every week. He also assumed that you spent two hours per week in the local mall. With that unlikely scenario your chance of being there at the time of the attack would be one in 1.5 million. For comparison, your chance of dying in car accident during any one year is 1 in 7,000.

Rothschild noted that if terrorists hijacked and destroyed one airplane every week, and if you flew an average of once per month, that the odds of being on such a flight would be 1 in 135,000. If the terrorists managed to destroy only one plane per month the odds become 1 in 540,000. Of course the true odds of any such thing are even far less. Not even the most successful terrorist campaign is going to have that sort of kill rate.

Of course the panic-stricken will note “even one death is one death too many”. Certainly if you are the one you would think so. But the logic of this leads to the banning of human activity. To extend our lives by an insignificant amount of time, on average, we make our lives less meaningful, pleasurable and happy. For a tiny increase in life expectancy we destroy the quality of life.

Every special interest group knows this. And when they clamour for a redistribution of rights or wealth, normally from the public to themselves, they will use fear as their motivating force. The political class wants you to be terrorized. Their entire agenda is based on you being terroized and turning to them for protection. The one thing that scares politicians is an unafraid electorate. Imaginary problems will always be hyped and real problems vastly exaggerated.

Every politician is a terrorist in his heart. The difference between a bin Laden and a Gore or a Bush is more in tactics than intentions. Each wishes to achieve a goal by terrifying you. They are all following a strategy of imposing fear on people in order to force people into giving them what they want. And the only way to preserve freedom is to abandon our fears.

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