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Prof. Richard Rahn discusses “When is too much security too much?”

The following article by Prof. Richard Rahn appeared in The Washington Times

When is too much security too much?
Measures that slow the economy block better solutions

Should Americans be spending more on public security, or less? After a week of two horrific events, the Boston Marathon attack and the Texas fertilizer-plant explosion, most would probably answer the above question by saying, “We’re not spending enough.” Such an emotional response is not surprising particularly after seeing the highly competent and courageous response of the police, firefighters and medical first responders.

On Friday, I received an email from a friend asking the question, “Did it make sense to close down half of Massachusetts for a day to capture one 19-year-old suspected terrorist? No, unless he was part of a bigger cell which was the unknown for the police. Did the huge redeployment of law enforcement resources for the week to catch the perpetrators result in more nonrelated terrorist murders or auto fatalities (or perhaps even fewer)?”

One occasionally hears the comment that “we should spend whatever is necessary” to stop terrorism. It sounds good, but on reflection, it makes no sense. First, it is not at all clear that spending an unlimited amount can “stop terrorism.” As harsh as it may sound, we, like the Israelis and others, might have to learn to live with an occasional terrorist event. If we bankrupt the country or give away our liberties in a futile attempt to stop all terrorism, the terrorists win. As Benjamin Franklin warned: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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