During the Second Intifada in Israel in 2000, one way Palestinian militants lashed out against Israelis was by blowing themselves up on public buses. Tourism to Israel slowed to a trickle during this tense time, so two economists wondered whether that meant Israelis would stop riding buses, as well.
Instead, they found that sales of multiple-ride tickets and monthly bus passes were unaffected. Even single-ride passengers who were frequent users of the system didn’t change their habits. Those Israelis who lacked viable options for getting around, it seemed, simply made their peace with the slightly elevated chance that their bus would explode, and got on. It was only among car owners that sales of bus tickets declined.
“People can learn to control their emotions, and economic incentives affect the degree to which individuals do so,” wrote the authors of that study, Gary Becker and Yona Rubinstein. Given powerful enough incentives, they explain, people will choose to control their fear.
The U.S. faces its own terror threat—predominantly from homegrown fanatics. An analysis by the New America think tank earlier this year found that since September 11, nearly twice as many Americans have been killed by non-Muslim extremists as by Islamist radicals. Robert Dear, the man accused of killing three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs last week, appears to be one of these domestic terrorists.