My posting over at the Airports Blog says we are spending too much on Airport Security. This may seem odd to many in light of the recent foiled terror plot at JFK, but I don’t hear any advocates for huge budget military and security spending balancing the cost of all the security and military spending with alternatives to that approach.
The reason they can’t rationally make the case for current budgets is that the cost is completely out of line with the return on the investments. Ironically those claiming to be “fiscal conservatives” have become the most flagrant spenders in history, suggesting that the war on terror justifies all budgets because the cost of catastrophe is very great. The problem with this line of thinking is similar to the big spending social program line – government work is expensive work. We need to find more effective and cheaper ways to challenge terror, and probably need to factor in many scenarios so we can compare them with alternative investments in infrastructure.
For example I think many would say it is worth it to spend 5 billion government dollars for a 50% chance of thwarting an attack that would kill 1000 people. Yet those same folks would vote against spending an extra 5 billion on health care measures that would save 10,000 people. The second spend is *twenty times* more cost effective than the first. Sure there are many factors, but this type of analysis should at the very least be fleshed in a bit to avoid what we do now – spend based on political and emotional agendas that bear little relation to cost effectiveness.
My argument is simple -we are currently foresaking a lot of good in favor of fighting bad, and this approach is probably not sustainable for the long term.