In his latest video produced in conjunction with Reason, John Stossel explored common fears of passersby in Times Square for Halloween. He questioned tourists about what they’re most afraid of and got a variety of answers – everything from being afraid of bats to terrified of horses.
Stossel then proceeded to address whether or not those fears were irrational using actual statistics. The woman who was afraid of spiders, and thought a thousand people a year were killed by them, would probably be surprised to learn that the number is more like three per year.
Statistics prove that fears of terrorism are irrational
While it was fun debunking the fears people had of Halloween related creatures, the purpose of this video was broader. As John Stossel explained, fear is often accompanied by a reliance on big government.
Following a terrorist attack there are always media figures rushing to demand more government action in response. Although, when compared to deaths from other mundane activities, deaths from terrorism in the United States are incredibly low.
As John Stossel pointed out, the odds of being killed in a terror attack are only 1 in 18,853. More Americans are killed in bathtubs every year than are killed by terrorists.
John Stossel explains that people fear terrorism because it is out of their control
As a corollary to explain why people fear a terror attack more than a bathtub, Stossel brought up the classic example of cars versus planes. Thousands of people are killed every year in automobile accidents, but there are far more people who are frightened of flying as opposed to driving.
Because the driver has the illusion of control the fear is less than that of an airline passenger. The same situation applies to terrorism and bathtubs. People can take a variety of measures to ensure they won’t drown in a bathtub, but there is little they can do to mitigate their risk when it comes to a terror attack.
Despite the logical underpinnings of these illogical fears, they are still no excuse to get government involved. The majority of government action taken in response to terrorism has only provided the illusion of control and security – and at the expense of personal liberty.
John Stossel concludes by providing examples of what people should truly be fearful of. Heart disease, liver disease, and lung cancer kill millions but they can actually be avoided by taking the appropriate steps.
Watch the full video about fears and risks from John Stossel below: