Friday, August 10, 2007

"Freakonomics" Tumult Over Terrorists

Until the New York Times stops making readers pay for “Select” content, which may happen soon, you will have to take my word for this.

In a new blog on the Times web site, Steven D. Levitt, the quirky economist who co-wrote the best seller, “Freakonomics,” asked: “If You Were a Terrorist, How Would You Attack?”

The post, which cited random sniper shootings as a nifty method, generated almost 600 responses, some with ingenious ideas for mayhem, many with questions and comments about Levitt’s sanity.

Yesterday Levitt responded: “(Y)ou have to believe that terrorists are total idiots if it never occurred to them after the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings that maybe a sniper plot wasn’t a bad idea. The point is this: there is a virtually infinite array of incredibly simple strategies available to terrorists.”

With due respect to Levitt, that’s not the point. It’s one thing to flash your brilliance at a dinner party and quite another to show off in public. The problem is not giving new ideas to terrorists but stirring up the fears we all have to live with since 9/11 for no useful reason.

Levitt’s obtuseness is insignificant compared to that of Michael Chertoff, our Homeland Security honcho, who keeps telling us his gut feelings about imminent attacks while covering his butt and taking bows for the great job he has been doing.

It may be time to amend the old adage, “discretion is the better part of valor” by adding “and vanity as well.”

Yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater never was a great idea.


The Boston Series said...

Bob: I suggest you over worry. Are you suggesting that the terrorists have not thought of any of the ideas Levitt mentions and his mentioning them is telling them something they did not know. Come on, you should know better.

I'm not so much worried about that as I am about what the Fed did today injecting 35 billion dollars into the system. You know what it did, it gave the 35 billion dollars and took as security the mortgages that most people think of as worthless. In effect it transfered 35 billion risk from the banks and their shareholders to the taxpayers.

Is that the capitalist system where there is no longer risk? No one seems to catch on.

Watch 'n Wait said...

I agree with you. That was nothing but a show-off column. Levitt doesn't seem to have a lick of good sense.