Monday, December 10, 2007


And here is yet another complaint about the so-called 100-year flood protection--with a short detour first.

A recent article in Government Executive magazine profiles the efforts of a Princeton University economist to bring some hard, cold facts into the faith-based realm of public policy.

The article, "A Feel For Numbers," asks the question, "What if we fought terrorism using hard data instead of gut feelings and partisan politics?" The thesis is straightforward enough. If we possess the statistical know-how to realistically evaluate and assess risks, why aren't we doing so?

And further, why do we continue to formulate public policy on mere anecdotal evidence or human intuition? How can we justify committing billions upon billions of dollars of public money on programs or perceived problems while ignoring real and demonstrable threats?

Just for fun, the print edition shares some interesting factoids:

* The chance of dying in a car crash: 1 in 6,700.

* The chance of dying from a lightning strike: 1 in 3 million.

* The chance of dying in a terrorist attack: 1 in 5.3 million.

You don't have to be a Nobel Mathematician to see the unattractive picture those numbers paint. What's the greater threat to you? Poor roads and aging infrastructure? Or religious fanatics commandeering a commercial airliner? And yet, I bet you can guess where our national leaders place their priorities--and our money.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need to infuse no less than $1.6 trillion over the next five years to improve our infrastructure to a good condition. Yes, that's trillion, with a "t." Current funding mechanisms are projected to miss that mark by about 33%.

Meanwhile, the price tag for our expedition in Iraq is likely to reach $611 billion in FY08--with no end in sight.

And if that leaves you feeling exposed and abused, one more factoid to sleep on:

* The chance your home will flood at least once in 30 years if you build at exactly the base flood elevation: 1 in 26.


Anonymous said...

Oh my God Tim, why doesn't the Times Picayune print these facts. People are building again at the same elevation. How can we wake them up to the real facts?

mominem said...

Because journalists can't do arithmetic, so they decided it wasn't important.