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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Travel Warnings

The latest round of public warnings by authorities in the US and the UK about potential terrorist attacks continues to leave me slightly puzzled. What are the relevant populations supposed to do with such warnings? What in practice can we do to respond to such warnings in any meaningful way?

Stay away from classy hotels that cater to international visitors? That's about all that I can come up with. Tough luck for the people who are employed in such facilities and cannot afford to change their job on the very slight chance that their might be a terrorist attack. There is a bit of a class bias there. Do we expect people in such places to resign their jobs in the face of ill-defined and statistically low level of risk?

What is the impact on the population at large of warnings that you cannot do anything much with? I am not a social psychologist but it seems plausible to me that the only result of such warnings can be to add to an undefined sense of fear and uncertainty.

The only value of such warnings is that they provide cover for the backside of government if their is a terrorist attack that enables them to say that they provided the public with a warning and justify the increasingly large and unjustifiable amounts of public funding spent on so called "security".

In a time where people are dying in large numbers from preventable disease that can be addressed at a relatively low cost, the expenditure of increasing amounts of money to prevent relatively small numbers of deaths in response to terrorist threats becomes increasingly hard to justify from a moral point of view,.

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