The Trouble With Experts

Bruce Schneier points to a paper demonstrating handily that we’d be better off from a cost-benefit standpoint doing nothing about terrorism. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s right but, unfortunately, it’s also completely irrelevant because it’s politically impossible. The president, the federal government, must do something in response to attacks of the sort that occurred on September 11, 2001 even if whatever they do does more harm than good. Not only would they pay a political price for inaction but failing to respond de-legitimizes the government, those in power specifically.

To demonstrate for yourself that’s the case just look at the complaints that we’re seeing about the state of the economy. The sad reality is that there’s no quick fix. Not only is there probably nothing that the president or the federal government can do to solve whatever near-term economic problems we’re having but that whatever is done, e.g. the rebate checks, won’t stand up to the sort of cost-benefit analysis done in the paper on terrorism that Mr. Schneier links to.

The trouble with experts is that they think that being right is important. It isn’t all-important. Political necessity trumps being right every single time.

That’s why I believe that, rather than stewing that we’re not doing the right thing, e.g. nothing, in reaction to terrorism, security experts ought to be helping to identify the most effective and least expensive useless things to do because whatever they think something will be done.

1 comment… add one
  • There is also the risk that terrorists may, if not win, achieve some important target if they are left to act unchallenged or ignored as a minor nuisance.

    And that’s no small thing.

Leave a Comment