Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | September 2, 2012

And Now, For a Little Hubris… and Hysteria

I’m putting up a whopping five-part post on my To Christians blog, “Controlling the Narrative,” examining how we figure out our identities, i.e., who and what we are.

A big part of defining our identities involves our ever-present ignorance of relevant factors. But ignorance isn’t a lone player. An even bigger part of “finding ourselves” involves entrenched denial of that same ignorance.

Lots of people have taken stabs at saying what distinguishes the human species from other mammals. I’ve never heard anyone suggest hubris. I think I will. To illustrate the kind of self-deluding conceit I’m talking about, I did a little statistical analysis.

The odds of getting the jackpot ticket in a “6/49” lottery game are about 1 in 14,000,000. (1:13,983,816 to be exact. See Lottery Mathematics.)

Odds of winning a “Powerball” jackpot are 1 in 175,000,000.

Statistically, according to Harvard Center For Risk Analysis, you are 2,000 times more likely to die in an automobile accident than win a jackpot, and 1,500 times more likely to commit suicide. You are almost 800 times as likely to be murdered and 17 times more likely to drown in a bathtub than hit the jackpot.

That means that out of 14,000,000 people playing a “6/49” lottery game, odds are that more than 2,000 will die in car collisions while only one will win.

Does the very real risk of death dissuade us from driving, washing, pissing people off, or owning lethal instruments? If we paid attention to real risks, it would be a wonder if we functioned at all. The numbers above are death statistics. The risk of injury that we continually expose ourselves to with nary a qualm is many times greater.

For the most part, we go about our business in relative confidence, selectively oblivious to actual risks, until something unexpected happens. Then suddenly, after the fact, we scramble to understand why it happened.

I’m amazed, not so much by how blithely we risk serious harm to ourselves daily, but that we aren’t bothered by the fact that our customary confidence has so little basis in reality.

In contrast, we are inexplicably biased towards making big deals out of highly unlikely–though well-sensationalized–threats like “terrorism.”

Cost estimates for American “anti-terrorist” measures in the decade since 9/11 range between $3 trillion and $5 trillion. According to the State Department’s own Patterns of Global Terrorism report, 2811 terrorist attacks occurred globally from 1995 through 2004. In those attacks, 6973 people died and 23,824 people were injured.[1] Some estimates now put the “War on Terror” at $700 billion annually.[2]

In contrast, the average cost of an individual health care policy in the U.S. was $2,196 per year ($183 per month,) according to an eHealth, Inc. report published last year.[3] With an American population of 311.6 million people in July 2011, that puts the cost of health insurance at $684.3 billion per year, well over what Americans actually paid in premiums for the decade, since family policies are less expensive per person, an estimated 16% of Americans are uninsured, and costs at the time of the study were more 50% higher than in 2001.[4] That’s a total $6.84 trillion for the same decade.

In other words, the money we’ve spent on “counter-terrorism” would cover at least between 50% and 75% of the cost of FREE HEALTHCARE for every person in the USA. That’s without any improvement to our current healthcare system.

Let’s see…

On one hand, the fate of healthcare for over 300 million people was put on hold for decades of fruitless political debate.

On the other hand, the tragic deaths and injuries of literally 0.01% that number (that’s one hundredth of one percent, i.e., 30,797/311,600,000) motivated enough hysteria to spend the equivalent of perpetually free healthcare for every man, woman, and child in America, and what did it buy us? Good question.

Was hysterical 9/11 “counter-terrorism” spending worth it? Here’s what Prof. John B. Mueller, Ohio State political scientist and co-author of the book Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security had to say in a September, 2011 interview by CBC correspondent Adrianne Arsenault:

JOHN MUELLER: “Unless they can demonstrate that they have deterred, protected against, or foiled thousands of plots per year, the money simply is not justified by using conventional cost-benefit analysis.”

ADRIENNE ARSENAULT: “How many Times Square-type attacks a day would they have had to have foiled to make the trillion-dollar spending worth it?”

MUELLER: “Four.”


MUELLER: “Yeah, four a day.”[5]



Am I the only one who thinks that this picture is very crooked and hanging by a thread?


[1] The Patterns of Global Terrorism report was redubbed Country Reports on Terrorism in 2005. (continue reading…)

[2] “Terrorism Still Less Deadly in US Than Lack of Health Insurance, Salmonella“, (FDL) (continue reading…)

[3] According to the ‘Cost & Benefits of Individual and Family Health Insurance Plans’ report, released today by eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH), the average premium paid for individual health insurance coverage in the United States in 2011 was $2,196 per year ($183 per month); families paid an average annual premium of $4,968 ($414 per month). The report also found that the average deductible for individually-purchased health insurance plans in 2011 was $2,935 for individuals and $3,879 for families. See “How Much Does Health Insurance Cost?” (continue reading…)

[4] According to the World Health Organization (WHO), total health care spending in the U.S. was 15.2% of its GDP in 2008, the highest in the world. The Health and Human Services Department expects that the health share of GDP will continue its historical upward trend, reaching 19.5% of GDP by 2017. See Health Care in the United States: Spending (continue reading…)

[5] 9/11 and the price of protection (CBC), CBC News, September 7, 2011 (continue reading…)



  1. This is awesome man!!!!

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