The suggestion that one death by jihadist
equals one death by road accident or fatty food consumption, and that
public policy should be set on that basis, is absurd. The public would
quite rightly be more concerned with a hundred deaths on Australian
soil from terrorism than an extra hundred road deaths.

Terrorist deaths will lead to increased hostility to immigration and
increased unrest between Muslim Australians and the rest of us. The
reality is that, rightly or wrongly, they will no doubt lead to more
stringent laws than those already proposed, adding to costs and
reducing liberties further. And while road accidents and fatty food are
at least partly within the control of the “victim”, terrorism is
frightening because of its randomness, which adds to the net
psychological cost in terms of increased fear in society.

importantly, as Johan Norberg’s work demonstrates, happiness may not be
based on increased absolute wealth, but it does correlate with economic
growth. Norberg posits that this derives from a sense that one’s
children will lead a better life – that life is getting better. Those
of us who have travelled would attest to anecdotal experiences that
support the concept that a society’s optimism about the future is an
important factor in human happiness. Terrorism is not so frightening
simply because of the absolute number of deaths; it is frightening
because it challenges the notion that life is getting better. It
suggests that our future may be a dark one. Car accidents and people
dying from smoking do not.

Finally, people are more concerned
about terrorist deaths because they are morally repugnant. Again,
deaths from road accidents or heart attacks are not – they are a cost
of the way we live our everyday lives.

It is interesting that Ross Gittins ignores these moral and psychological factors in analysing terrorism,
when he happily adopts them in his frequent criticisms of IR
deregulation to explain why he thinks people should not be free to work
the hours they want to. I think this is the first time I have seen him
adopt such a strict utilitarian model.

Dare I suggest that it is because this is the first time a strict utilitarian model has conformed with his political agenda?