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One of the most important functions of government--risk management--is one of the least well understood. Moving beyond the most familiar public functions--spending, taxation, and regulation--When All Else Fails spotlights the government's pivotal role as a risk manager. It reveals, as never before, the nature and extent of this governmental function, which touches almost every aspect of economic life.
In policies as diverse as limited liability, deposit insurance, Social Security, and federal disaster relief, American lawmakers have managed a wide array of private-sector risks, transforming both the government and countless private actors into insurers of last resort. Drawing on history and economic theory, David Moss investigates these risk-management policies, focusing in particular on the original logic of their enactment. The nation's lawmakers, he finds, have long believed that pervasive imperfections in private markets for risk necessitate a substantial government role. It remains puzzling, though, why such a large number of the resulting policies have proven so popular in a country famous for its anti-statism. Moss suggests that the answer may lie in the nature of the policies themselves, since publicly mandated risk shifting often requires little in the way of invasive bureaucracy. Well suited to a society suspicious of government activism, public risk management has emerged as a critical form of government intervention in the United States.
Moss examines public policy attempts to either spread or shift the burden of risk from a favored group to others by tracing major US social reform movements...Given the antistatist nature of American democracy, Moss concludes that government's redistribution of various risks of its favored citizens has served as a substitute for a more significant redistribution of income. Readers interested in the historical roots of American institutions should find this book a treat.
— R. Kelly
This is a useful and worthwhile book for anybody interested in the evolution of U.S. government risk management or effective policy design. Professor David Moss argues that the U.S. government has since its inception acted as a manager of risk due to its unique ability to enforce action...Moss deserves congratulations for showing government policy to be more than self-interested rent seeking and for revealing the reasoning behind government risk management—a recommended book.
— Thomas Kemp
2. A Primer on Risk and Its History
3. Limited Liability
6. Workers' Insurance
7. Social Security
8. Product Liability Law
9. Security for All
10. The Foundations of American Risk Management Policy
Epilogue: Risk, Knowledge, and the Veil of Ignorance