The Full Costs of Terrorism
The discussion in chapter 2 focused on deaths caused by terrorism, the issue of greatest concern to most people. However, terrorism inflicts other costs as well. To obtain a full appreciation for terrorist damage, these other costs must be considered, and the most comprehensive way to do this is to put all the losses—including the loss of life—into economic terms.
While it can be a morally difficult consideration, there is a long history of placing a monetary value on human life. The calculation is often referred to as the value of a statistical life (VSL), and table 3.1 supplies estimates of how much has been spent to save a single human life as the consequence of dozens of government regulations.
The results are anything but tidy, and they often reflect psychological and political aspects of risk perception or electoral and lobbyist pressure.1 However, some general tendencies and limits have been established over time. Thus, looking over such data, Elizabeth Pate-Cornell suggests that a VSL ceiling of $3 million, inflation adjusted to 2010 dollars, seems roughly appropriate in current practice—though there are clearly quite a few entries in the table that are substantially, even spectacularly, higher.2 But regulators and administrators seem generally rather unwilling to spend more to save a life, implying that they value life at about that amount. For