Good lord, if advertisers now have to apologize for not seeking prior approval from authorities for putting up signs, what have we come to?
One of the men charged, Peter Berdovsky, said, "[It's] kind of ridiculous that they're making these statements on TV that we must not be safe from terrorism, because they were up there for three weeks and no one noticed. It's pretty commonsensical to look at them and say this is a piece of art and installation."
Terrorism is horrible, but your chances of dying in a terrorist attack are relatively low. You're more likely to be killed hitting a deer with your car. (Two hundred Americans die on average every year from car collisions with deer. Including the toll from 9/11, the average number of Americans to die each year from international terrorism since 1981 is 145.)
Excessive fear of terrorism hurts Americans, too. After 9/11, many people chose to drive rather than fly, leading to 1,000 additional deaths in automobile wrecks.
Boston's crazy reaction reinforces the theme I've been sounding in recent columns: Decentralization of authority is always better than centralized power. Imagine if the federal Department of Homeland Security imposed procedures on all cities for when suspicious devices are spotted. The whole country might have come to a standstill.
Instead -- thank goodness -- cities and states can establish their own procedures based on their own knowledge and experience. If Boston's procedures cause the city to panic and shut down, at least New York's and L.A.'s don't.
That's the beauty of federalism.