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A False Sense of Insecurity

5 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2004  

John Mueller

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science


Determining how to respond to the terrorist challenge has become a major public policy issue in the United States over the last three years. However, there is a perspective on terrorism that has been very substantially ignored. It can be summarized, somewhat crudely, as follows: assessed in broad but reasonable context, terrorism generally does not do much damage, and the costs of terrorism very often are the result of hasty, ill-considered, and overwrought reactions than from anything the terrorists have done. 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 prove to be a rather limited problem are misplaced, unjustified, and counterproductive.

Keywords: Risk, terrorism, terrorist, united states, probability of terrorist attack, public policy

JEL Classification: D81, D84, H56

Suggested Citation

Mueller, John, A False Sense of Insecurity. Regulation, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 42-46, Fall 2004. Available at SSRN:

John Mueller (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Columbus, OH 43210
United States

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