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When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager / Edition 1

When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager / Edition 1

by David A. MossDavid A. Moss


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674016095
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/25/2004
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 1,095,980
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.19(d)

About the Author

David A. Moss is the Paul Whiton Cherington Professor at Harvard Business School and the founder of the Tobin Project, a nonprofit research organization that has received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. He has received the Student Association Faculty Award for outstanding teaching at the Harvard Business School eight times. Democracy: A Case Study grew out of a course he created for Harvard undergraduates and business school students that has been taught to the United States Congress and to state congresses and that is now being brought to high schools throughout America as part of the High School Case Method Project, which Professor Moss oversees at Harvard Business School.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. A Primer on Risk and Its History

3. Limited Liability

4. Money

5. Bankruptcy

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




What People are Saying About This

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.
Harvey M. Sapolsky,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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.
Deborah Stone, Brandeis University

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.
Kenneth A. Oye, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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.
Tom Baker, University of Connecticut

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.
Robert J. Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance

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.
John Coatsworth, Harvard University

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