Thursday, January 12, 2006

Protect Big Cities or Small Cities from Terrorists?

An article in the New York Times called "Bad Things Happen in Small Places" criticizes the Department of Homeland Security for directing all of its spending to large, coastal cities and neglecting terrorism defense for smaller cities.

The author was the governor of Oklahoma when Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing took place in 1995, which provides the motivation for teh op-ed and part of his argument.

The decision of how to spend Homeland Security funds is definitely a problem of allocating limited resources. What do you guys think of how this decision should be made? What do you think of Keating's criticism of current spending plans? (Make sure you read the article before responding & you frame your answer in terms of costs and benefits).

(Source: Environmental and Urban Economics Blog)

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The article talked about how the reason terrorists sometimes choose small cities is because there is less security is smaller cities than really large ones. There is a much higher cost with attacking the larger cities because they have a greater chance of being attacked back and getting caught. However, the cost to attacking a smaller city is that the terrorist will not be able to destroy quite as much because there just isnt as much to destroy.

I thought it was a good arguement about how so much depends on "first response". The faster rescuers can get to the scene, more lives will be saved. In this case, smaller cities should get more money to improve their system. However, this costs a great deal more because there a LOT of small cities and it would be really hard to protect them all because we never know where the terrorist will attack

Anonymous said...

sry i forgot to sign my name again

that was kelly

-Kelly

Anonymous said...

I agree with kelly in that it would be extremetely difficult to increase the protection in all small cities since there are so many of them and there is no way of knowing which one a terrorist would chose to attack. However, it seems to me that more serious terrorists would want to send a more extreme message in the first place, causing them to choose a high profile and highly populated city to attack. Obviously, you would always want all cities and areas to be as protected as possible, but terrorists would most likely pose a higher threat to a larger more potentially higher effected city. Therefore, as well as due to the higher population, they would need more protection.

-Maria Guilbault

Hagar the Horrible said...

One thing that I think is important to keep in mind -- and I appologize beforehand that it doesn't have much to do with economics -- is to be aware of falling into a rhetoric of a) that "the terrorists" will attacks and b) that it will be Al Qaeda. I think an important piece Keating raises but does not fully develop is that you don't know where terrorism could occurr -- nor who could commit it.
Finally, on a more economic note: people (and presumably terrorists) respond to incentives. That means that wherever money is spent to have better security, we deter terrorists from those targets and towards the lesser-prepared targets. To me that means to protect the things we value most and leave Las Vegas to go down.

Richie Rich said...

i didn't really understand what the last comment was saying, but i think that what we need to do is spend money on the larger cities. Naturally to get to the areas on the inside of the country (Oklahoma), you have to go through costal areas such as cities like New York or Atlanta which are common hubs for far away international areas like the Middle East.

I would imagine a terrorist doesn't have too much of a risk of facing larger security as opposed to smaller security in a small town when his goal is to kill himself in the first place with inexpensive and simple bombs strapped to himself.

The inevitable fact is that its going to happen either way, but by putting the money into smaller towns we are only draining the effectiviness of our economy and makeing ourselves even weaker to combat terrorism in the future overseas.

Terrorism is strapped in tight for a long time, so lets keep focusing on protecting what is most valuable to us, the big cities

Anonymous said...

I think that it is obvious that we should spend more money towards the defense of larger cities for two main reasons that people have previously said but i am reiterating. Large cities obviously have larger population and more valuable sites and resources than small cities tend to have so they would be more more prone to terrorist attacks and is they did get attacked it would be a larger blow to society as a whole. I also agree with the point that it would be much more difficult and much more costly to defend smaller cities, which then raises the questions of which small cities to protect and in many cases im sure the spending on defense of these small cities would be a waste. I think that the inhabitants deserve just as much protection as the inhabitants of larger cities but I just dont think that it is effective and realistic to try and allocate more resources to small cities.
-JASON

Anonymous said...

I think it makes sense to have higher security in high profile cities. Large cities would have more devestation if they were attacked and would need good resources to help people if an attack were to occur.

There are so many small cities it would be impossible to have the same quality of protection in them that major cities have.

It is more likely that a terrorist would attack a large city and so the large cities should have more money for protection.

erin clay

Anonymous said...

Larger cities not only have more inhabitants than smaller cities, but they also have more commerce and resources and just more business. So by protecting smaller cities, you will be protecting those people which is good. But you also have to factor in the fact that you also need to protect the nation's leading commerce.
I agree with Kelly in the fact that it would be almost impossible to allocate those limited reasources to smaller cities and if we attempted to, that would make our larger cities more vulnerable to attacks.
Also, i know that everyone responds to incentives, even terrosists. But look at September 11th, the terrorists didn't care about getting caught or even their own death. they wanted to defend their country and sacrafice themselves which is what they did regardless of costs and benefits. So overrall, i dont think we can afford to make those larger cities vulnerable to such attacks again.
courtney