I recently had my nail scissors confiscated by security before boarding a flight to LA, says Adam Creighton in The Australian. Which is ridiculous – America has spent more than $2 trillion on counterterrorism in the 20 years since 9/11, but statistics show that a person would have to fly “every day for 30,000 years before being involved in a terrorist attack”. Nor has all that spending calmed nerves. In 2016, 15 years after the Patriot Act vastly expanded US government surveillance, nearly three in four Americans said the risk of terrorist attack on the US by foreigners was greater or the same.
All the same mistakes are resurfacing in our response to Covid-19, “the biggest over-reaction in history”. Governments leap into action, then are reluctant to repeal knee-jerk policies, partly because they’ve ploughed billions into their big plans – the “sunk-cost fallacy is endemic”. No authorities ever properly examine the terrorism risk because “the answer would raise awkward questions for the security-industrial complex that profits handsomely from these arrangements”. It’s the same with Covid. As George Orwell wrote: “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous.” We could still be handing over our nail scissors, double-masked, 20 years from now. “God help us if there’s another crisis on the horizon.”