John Stossel

"Terror porn" is what economist Veronique de Rugy calls it. Why "porn"? "Because porn sells, [and] terrorism sells even better," she says. "It's great for politicians. They can campaign on the fact that they are protecting us. They also can campaign on the fact that they're bringing more money to their states."

Lots of small towns do get absurd grants for homeland security. Lake County, Tenn., a rural county with only 8,000 people, got nearly $200,000 in homeland-security money.

"I don't know that terrorists will come, but I don't know they won't come," Lake County Mayor Macie Roberson told us, smiling.

At least he didn't do what Columbus, Ohio did: spend it on bulletproof vests for police dogs.

Ervin concedes that some security money is wasted, but still says we need to spend more. "It's very important to reassure the American people that our government is doing everything it can to protect them," he told me. "If we do that, we will have succeeded in denying terrorists a major victory."

No. The opposite is true. It's overreacting that would give them a victory.

Of course, terrorism is a real threat. But fear kills people, too. A University of Michigan study found that an additional 1,000 Americans died in car accidents in the three months after Sept. 11, because they were afraid to fly. We need to keep risk in perspective.

"We have had dark moments in our history, far darker moments than those we face today," says The Rand Corporation's Brian Michael Jenkins. After studying terrorism for 40 years, he likes to remind people, "We've come through wars, plagues, pandemics ... The response to terrorism cannot be diving under the kitchen table and living in a state of fear. That's exactly what the terrorists are attempting to create."


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate