Today’s New York Times carries a piece on a new attempt by John Graham, head of information and regulatory affairs at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, to measure the cost of lost freedom in the war on terrorism and use those costs to help make decisions about whether giving up certain liberties is worthwhile.
- [T]he budget office asked experts from around the country for ideas on how to measure “indirect costs” like lost time, lost privacy and even lost liberty that might stem from tougher security regulations.
The budget office has not challenged any domestic security rules, and officials say they are only beginning to look at how they might measure costs of things like reduced privacy. But officials said they hoped to give federal agencies guidance by the end of the year. And even if many costs cannot be quantified in dollar terms, they say, the mere effort to identify them systematically could prompt agencies to look for less burdensome alternatives.
The issues are not always abstract. American universities are worried that ever-tighter scrutiny of foreign students will cause them to lose market share in foreign students to Australia, Canada and Europe.
Airlines, meanwhile, are eager to increase use of advanced passenger screening systems. Civil rights advocates say the systems would single out some people with particular ethnic backgrounds, but they might also help business fliers whisk through security checkpoints as seemingly low-risk “trusted travelers.”
Jarring as it may seem to assign a price on privacy or liberty, the idea has attracted an unusual array of supporters, including Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, who said the approach might expose wrong-headed security regulations.