Sunday, October 24, 2004

Calm down dear, its only a terrorist attack

John Mueller argues that public policy ought to take a more rational approach because: Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severeallergic reaction to peanuts.
(Via Will Wilkinson and Gene Healy)

Regulation has published articles like this in the past (see here for example), and scholars such as Paul Slovic, John Adams, Cass Sunstein... have made similar points.
They make simple, but important conclusions based on an uncomplicated presentation of statistics. The more interesting, and more difficult problem, is what to do about it? How are you going to get around democratic machinations that play on people's cognitive biases?

I agree with Prof Johnston (warning: academic article):
Technocrats can do little or nothing to reduce political barriers to economically efficient or socially desirable regulation.

It's the institution, stupid.


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