$200,000,000 per arrest


Barrett Brown

I am the founder of the distributed think-tank Project PM and a regular inactive to Vanity Fair and Skeptical Inquirer. My work has also appeared in The Onion, National Lampoon, New York Press, D Magazine, Skeptic, McSweeney's, American Atheist, and a couple of newspapers in the U.S. and Mexico as well as a few policy journals. I'm the author of two books and serve as a consultant to various political entities and private clients.

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19 Responses

  1. Avatar D.A. Ridgely says:

    This reminds me of comedian Pat Paulsen’s 1968 “presidential campaign” when he said “It’s costing the United States $200,000 for every Viet Cong we kill. Did anyone stop to think they could be bought off cheaper than that? I know I could be bought cheaper than that.”

    However, not to argue that this is money well spent, insofar as I accept the claim that gun ownership discourages the commission of crimes, I would also accept the argument that the mere presence of air marshals may have had a significant threat reduction. In neither case can such claims easily be substantiated, let alone captured statistically. Clearly, however, mere arrests like actual private use of firearms to prevent or defend against crimes does not tell the whole story.Report

  2. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    One can never even begin to quantify the effect of prophylaxis.Report

  3. Avatar trizzlor says:

    Thanks for the math lesson Mr. Duncan, and how many terrorists have those metal detectors stopped? Hmmm, sounds like a boondoggle ready for nipping to me. Besides, my metal has a damn right not to be detected!Report

  4. In Japan, instead of just reducing the number of firefighters to account for safer heating technologies, fire trucks go on random patrols with sirens on and everything in case they just happen to come across a huge fire. The air marshall’s program is much stupider than that.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    There is also the cost (though not borne by the taxpayer – until another bailout that is) of one or two marshals taking up the first class seats which are the most profitable ones for the airline.Report

  6. It would be interesting to see what kinds of arrests those arrests are. If all four arrests made per annum are arrests that prevented a plane from its destruction, and if your average flight on which the arrests are made carries, say, 175 passengers, then you are paying $285,714 for each passenger death prevented. That still seems like a lot of money to get the job done, of course, but you can’t easily argue that for that investment you could fly people on private jets, because you don’t have a list of who needs to have a private jet in advance so you’d have to fly everyone that way. And of course, it’s very challenging to put a price on lives lost (or ancillary effects of that).

    However, if those four arrests are drunkards causing a disturbance who are just being arrested by the air marshal rather than by ground authorities simply because the marshal happens to be there, then the case that it’s wild overspending is much stronger.Report

    • Avatar James Huber says:

      This exactly. I’ve spent about an hour online looking for a terrorist caught by TSA. Not an extensive search, but I was only able to find four arrests. One was for possessing heroine, the other three were for carrying falsified documents.

      I’d really like to see some hard numbers on how many people the TSA processes, how much stuff they confiscate, and how many terrorists they catch.Report