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March 11, 2003

Cost-Benefits of Lost Liberty

Well, some in the White House are finally admitting that stupid "Homeland Security" measures have costs in lost liberty and convenience.

In an unusual twist on cost-benefit analysis, an economic tool that conservatives have often used to attack environmental regulation, top advisers to President Bush want to weigh the benefits of tighter domestic security against the "costs" of lost privacy and freedom.
Gotta say, it took them long enough. As I wrote in a Populist Column at the end of 2001:
You know, I miss the conservatives who told us it was too costly to remove arsenic from our drinking water.

No, really. Oh they were blatantly wrong on the benefits of tightening standards for arsenic in our water - a fact acknowledged by the Bush administration as they quietly reinstated the Clinton-established regulations a few weeks ago.

But the principle that risks have to be measured against the costs and the idea that absolute security is impossible - or usually so costly as to be undesirable - is a correct one. Unfortunately, it's a principle that's been loss since 911 as hysteria has taken over.

Out of fear, Americans have cut back flying, leading to mass layoffs at the airlines and a near collapse of the tourist industry around the country. This in turn has helped accelerate the deepening recession, helping to throw even more people out of work.

Out of fear, our political leaders are tossing the Bill of Rights out of the Constitution at an even more alarming rate.

Of course, this whole stupid war is an example of wasted resources that is trashing the economy in search of hypothetical security.

But it's nice to hear we'll have a full economic measurement of how stupid Bush policy has been in trading off economic health and civil liberties in favor of hysteria.

Posted by Nathan at March 11, 2003 07:32 AM

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