Welcome to the Cato Institute’s project to counter threat inflation.

Americans cannot go a day without hearing dire warnings of pending disaster and doom from pundits and policymakers. Combine that with the constant bombardment of bad news streaming at us, and it’s no wonder most of us are anxious and afraid. 

And why? Because safety doesn’t sell.

Fortunately, we’re here to put things in perspective. We will ameliorate fears by placing threats to U.S. national security in proper context. And we will call out threat‐​inflating comments while praising those that offer an accurate, honest assessment.

We will soon launch a new website dedicated to combating threat inflation. It will be a “one‐​stop shop” for those seeking clarity on potential threats to U.S. national security and will feature our extensive work and research on the topic as well as new content to counter the incessant fear‐​mongering by what Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen call the “Threat‐​Industrial Complex.”

Until then, if you have any examples of threat inflation (or of a comment worthy of praise), please email tevans@cato.og or direct message us on Twitter. If we use your example, you will receive a free book from the Cato Institute’s extensive library on threat deflation.

To hold you over until the official launch, we have compiled a threat inflation resource list. In the meantime, try to remember that we Americans have it pretty good. 


Clear and Present Safety: The United States is More Secure than Washington Thinks by Micah Zenko and Michael A. Cohen, Foreign Affairs, March/​April 2012

Cyberskeptics compiled by John Glaser and John Mueller

Despite Fear‐​Mongering, U.S. Is Not Beset by Grave Threats by John Glaser, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 13, 2017

Military‐​Industrial Complex by Christopher Preble, Lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org, August 15, 2008

The Dangers of Alarmism by John Mueller, September 2, 2015

The Most Dangerous World Ever? by Christopher Preble, Cato Policy Report, September/​October 2014

The Terrible “Ifs” by Benjamin H. Friedman, Regulation, Winter 2007


A Dangerous World? Threat Perception and U.S. National Security edited by Christopher Preble and John Mueller (Cato Institute, 2014)

American Foreign Policy & The Politics of Fear edited by Trevor Thrall and Jane K. Cramer (Routledge, 2009)

Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle by Cass Sunstein (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism by Melvin A. Goodman (City Lights Publishers, 2013)

Overblown by John Mueller (Free Press, 2006)

Terrorizing Ourselves edited by Benjamin H. Friedman, Jim Harper, and Christopher Preble (Cato Institute, 2010)

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker (Penguin Books, 2012)

The Emergency State: America’s Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs by David C. Unger (Penguin Books, 2013)

The Global Village Myth: Distance, War, and the Limits of Power by Patrick Porter (Georgetown University Press, 2015)

The Precautionary Principle: A Critical Appraisal by Indur M. Goklanv (Cato Institute, 2001)


• “Address Delivered at the Request of the Committee for Arrangements for Celebrating the Anniversary of Independence” by John Quincy Adams (1821)

• “Farewell Address to the Nation” by Dwight D. Eisenhower (1961)

The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Aesop (~600 BC)


Dangerous World? Threat Perception and U.S. National Security Cato Institute Event

Hype and Hype‐​ability: Threat Inflation in U.S. Foreign Policy, Power Problems featuring Emma Ashford and A. Trevor Thrall, December 26, 2017

Threat Inflation Season Is Appropriation Season, Cato Daily Podcast featuring Patrick G. Eddington and Caleb O. Brown, March 14, 2019