The high cost of terrorism
Around for centuries, terrorism usually has been relatively cost-efficient. However, increased levels of lethality, miniaturization and remote control of modern explosives have rendered today's terrorism vastly more cost-effective.
Two relatively simple bombs placed at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three, injured about 280 and caused extensive property damage and economic loss. The future cost from the fallout is almost impossible to estimate.
Broadly speaking, terror can be divided into disruptive, sabotage, and demonstrative. Even demonstrative terrorism is divided between individual suffering, as in the case of Buddhist monks, and mass damage, like 9/11. Physical acts of mass-damage demonstrative terrorism, even when they fail as in the case of the “underwear bomber” aboard the Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009, are designed to create a feeling of fear or terror. The result of both the terrorist act and the resulting fear is economic loss. But they are distinctly different in their economic effect.
Normally, physical acts of terrorism result in grievous human and severe property damage. The resulting atmosphere of terror is subtler in its effect. The creation of fear can prevent or even hinder people in the conduct of their normal lives.
For example, football fans may avoid attending live games at large, crowded stadiums, opting to stay away from a potential terror target and watch the game on television in the security of their own homes. This causes economic loss to many job-creating businesses including football clubs, transport companies, hotels, and small vendors. If the fear of associating with large crowds is extended to shopping centers, theaters and similar public locations, the economic damage can become serious.
On Sept. 8, 2011, The New York Times published an estimate that the 9/11 terrorists spent some $500,000 for training, planning, infiltration, tickets, etc. to cause $3.283 trillion in costs to the United States on 9/11. The breakdown was $55 billion in human and physical losses, but that was overshadowed by an estimated $123 billion in economic loss.
The net impact of the Boston bombing by two supposed “lone wolf” terrorists likely will be infinitely less than the damage done by “core terrorists” at the World Trade Center in 2001. Nevertheless, the cost to Boston will be real.
Beyond the human tragedy of the deaths of an 8-year-old boy and two young women, and beyond the more than a dozen people who have lost limbs, there is a heavy economic impact from closing down Boylston Street, a third of the city for a day, and telling an entire metro area to stay shut indoors for a day.
Jim Diffley, vice president and chief economist for IHS Global Insight US Regional Services Group, has supervised quarterly economic forecasts of 50 states and more than 300 U.S. metropolitan areas since 1998. He estimates that Boston's normal economic production is about $1 billion a day. He estimates that shutting down Boylston Street and a third of the city for a day cost some $333 million.
The cost to terrorists to imbed fear into adults — especially for their children's safety — about going out into crowds at public events? Priceless.
John Browne, a former member of Britain's Parliament, is a financial and economics columnist for Trib Total Media. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Agent: Polamalu undecided whether to play in 2015
- Mt. Lebanon deer-culling corrals sprayed with urine, repellent
- Federal jury says gas company shorted owners on royalties
- Starkey: In defense of Mel Kiper Jr.
- Penguins notebook: Road trip increases in difficulty
- Loose barges on the Mon highlight woes of winter’s end
- U.S. Ambassador to South Korea stable after facial surgery for knife wounds
- Hax: Pregnant sister is off her rocker over alleged chair-breaking incident
- Seneca Valley special-needs student left on bus
- Federal judge dismisses complaint against foreclosure propery management company
- Penguins forwards struggle in loss to Avalanche