When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager

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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 reveals the nature and extent of the government's crucial role. 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 ...
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Overview

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 reveals the nature and extent of the government's crucial role. 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.
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Editorial Reviews

The Economist
David Moss...offers a novel perspective on the extraordinary expansion of government. Where once it confined its remit to the bare essentials of defence, internal security and the enforcement of private-property rights, today's leviathan spreads into every corner of national life, not just by taxing and spending but also by regulating. Much of the growth, Mr. Moss argues, has come from the state's unique ability to reallocate risk. Government has expanded its reach because it is the ultimate risk manager...[An] enlightening book.
Choice

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

Journal of Economic Issues

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

John Coatsworth
David Moss's book makes an innovative and persuasive contribution to the history of regulation and social policy in the United States...This is a major work in the field.
Robert J. Shiller
I am very enthusiastic about this book since I have learned so much from it about the origins of our economic institutions and about the fundamental principles by which our government creates value for society. It is a profoundly enlightening book.
Harvey M. Sapolsky
When All Else Fails very effectively explores the search for protection from the risks of modern life...We need more books like this that seamlessly combine economics and political analysis to help us understand the history of important areas of public policy.
Deborah Stone
When All Else Fails is a dazzling and bold new intellectual history of the relation between government and the economy in the United States...Like John Kenneth Galbraith, Moss has a gift for making economics and finance come alive...He could well turn out to be one of our leading public intellectuals in addition to being a first-rate scholar.
Kenneth A. Oye
This is an important book that should reshape public debate on the relationship between governments and private markets...It should penetrate Washington as well as Cambridge, should spur debate in Regulation as well as the Journal of Political Economy, and should be read by George W. Bush as well as students in courses on political economy and on business government relations...The time is certainly right.
Tom Baker
This is an important book...Moss combines the insights of economics, history, law, and political science to create a new framework for understanding government...His risk management framework cuts through the liberal/conservative debate in U.S. politics because it demonstrates continuities where others have seen only divides.
Choice - R. Kelly
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.
Journal of Economic Issues - Thomas Kemp
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674007574
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David A. Moss is John G. McLean Professor, Harvard Business School.
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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Introduction 1
2 A Primer on Risk and Its History 22
3 Limited Liability 53
4 Money 85
5 Bankruptcy 123
6 Workers' Insurance 152
7 Social Security 180
8 Product Liability Law 216
9 Security for All 253
10 The Foundations of American Risk Management Policy 292
Epilogue: Risk, Knowledge, and the Veil of Ignorance 326
Notes 337
Acknowledgments 444
Index 446
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