On True Costs – and airline security

First, welcome to my blog. I hope to take my incessant ramblings on politics, economics, and societal issues and crystallize some of those thoughts into coherent entries here; if my entries aren’t well written, I hope that they are at least thought provoking!

So, what is the concept of “True Cost”? If we had the power to know the true cost and benefit of each action we intend to take, surely decision-making would become a trivial process. In reality, people cannot predict the future, and they often disagree agree on the cost or benefit of a particular outcome. Still, this form of analysis has its place in policy-making, as it enables us to rationally approach topics that too often are debated in purely emotional terms.

Take, for example, the current security measures implemented in the airline industry. While fears of terrorism are well-founded, given events of recent history, at what point will the cost of extra security, delays, and trashed cosmetics outweigh the perceived benefit of increased security? No real terrorist has ever been caught by airport screeners (which is not to say it will never happen); but is this really the most effective way to effect airline safety?

More broadly, more Americans died from slips and falls (according to the CDC) during 2001 than from terrorism. Should we then live in fear of ladders and slick floors? Thinking individuals can work to balance security and risk in airline security – but they can do so only by weighing the cost and benefits, and not by reacting irrationally in the face of a new threat.

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