Class Warfare Blog

April 18, 2013

The Role of Cost in Effective Government

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:33 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Last night on Chris Hayes’ new program on MSNBC (“All In with Chris Hayes”) Mr. Hayes offered a couple of interesting statistics. Here they are:

Since 1980 there have been—
3000+ deaths due to Terrorism
900,000+ deaths due to Guns

That’s a ratio of 3000 to 1.

Mr. Hayes went on to contrast those facts with the amounts of money spent on combating terrorism (a lot) vs. combating gun-related deaths (only a little).

(Please do not write me about how much money we spend on police. The police are not a crime prevention agency, they are a law enforcement agency. The catch bad guys after the deeds are done and then, along with courts, enforce the laws by applying a penalty to the lawbreaker.)

There is a principle of business and I can’t remember if I heard it first from Peter Drucker or W. Edwards Deming but it goes like this: don’t invest more money trying to affect something than you can make from it. The example I remember was an employee pilferage problem: employees were taking office supplies home with them to the tune of $500 per year. The argument was that if a monitoring system to prevent the pilferage cost $1000 per year, you wouldn’t bother with it. Basically why spend $1000 a year to make $500?

The same rule of cost effectiveness applies in government. Why should we pay $1,000,000 to save one life from terrorism, but only $1,000 to save one life due to gun-related deaths. Why are those deaths more acceptable to us that the others?

This makes no sense. Unless it is deliberate (many of the victims of gun violence are suicides and/or black and brown citizens and/or gang members whose lives have little value to our representatives) or our representatives are stupid and venal. I suspect it is some of all of the above.



  1. Numbers sure get in the way of the insanity by 2nd amendment zealots


    Comment by lbwoodgate — April 18, 2013 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

    • I concur


      Comment by john zande — April 18, 2013 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

    • You have a way with words.

      I suspect that there is a finely crafted dillusionary world in which if you want to fit in it, you must espouse the same memes as do the others. “Damn that Obama, he wants to take our guns and the fact that he hasn’t done so yet shows that he is.” This nonsequitur doesn’t sound odd to those folks.

      I wish some kind hearted bazillionaire would offer to match and funds donated by the NRA to candidates but donate them to their primary opposition. The NRA doesn’t really wield much in the way of money, so this shouldn’t be too costly. Then all we need is a ridicule campaign, with a set of talking points, you know like “What can you expect from people who say things like ‘If babies had guns, there wouldn’t be no abortions.'” (Jeez, you can’t make this stuff up.)

      In this manner the NRA’s teeth could be pulled.


      Comment by stephenpruis — April 18, 2013 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

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