Still the world’s worst terrorist did get us to spend a fair amount of money. The best, non-kitchen sink analysis that I could find on the cost of bin Laden, excluding wars, is by two political science professors, John Mueller of Ohio State University and Mark Stewart of The University of Newcastle in New South Wales. Their conclusion is that the United States government and private companies spent a little over a trillion dollars on enhanced homeland security since 9/11.
Even that could be a little high. Certainly, the government spends much more on homeland security than it used to. Government spending on homeland security has jumped to $73 billion from $20 billion back in 2010. But to get to $1 trillion cumulatively spent over the past decade the two professors have added some other more squishy measures. Average airport wait times have increased by about 20 minutes since the start of new enhanced security measures. The two professors figure that average wait time costs us all about $10 billion a year, which I guess is the measure of economic activity that doesn’t get done because we are standing on line. Although if you factor how much earlier we have all tend to get to the airport in anticipation of the wait, then that number might be larger.