moral hazard

This above title of this post was the headline in today’s online edition of the Guardian. What a terrible idea! This proposal is a perfect example of what economists and others call a moral hazard. Moral hazards are basically situations in which one party takes on risks that another would bear the cost should the outcome require it. The term can also be used to describe an action that purports to solve some problem, but actually fails to deal with the real causes and diverts attention from an effective course. While the term is relatively new, the concept can be found in the writings of Adam Smith. This quote comes from The Wealth of Nations:

The directors of such companies, however, being the managers rather of other peoples’ money than of their own, it cannot well be expected, that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private copartnery frequently watch over their own … Negligence and profusion, therefore, must always prevail, more or less, in the management of the affairs of such a company.

The Guardian article goes on to point out that arming the schools is a favorite proposal by the advocates of gun rights.

The purchase of shoot houses is the latest in a string of wins for gun rights supporters in Ohio, who regularly and successfully seized on deadly mass shootings to loosen firearms restrictions in the state – especially inside classrooms. One of the largest expansions of Ohio gun rights came in 2022, after 19 children and two teachers were killed by a gunman at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Ohio Republicans responded by lifting restrictions on school teachers, custodians and bus drivers from carrying firearms at work.I won’t go into the long drawn-out history of Second Amendment legislation and court findings in this post. Rather, I want to use this case to make a different point. The arguments made by those who support gun rights, or, better, the arguments made by gun owners when asked why they have a gun or guns have little to do with reality. Guns have made the US much less safe than in virtually every other comparable nation in which guns are tightly controlled. I believe this is just another case where the left brain hemisphere is running the show. The left is the source of behaviors based on the world stored in that hemisphere whether that world resembles the real one or not. In this case, that world departs from reality by a large amount as do the claims made to explain their behavior by a large part of the US population. It is akin to the claims, still in vogue, that the last election was rigged or stolen.

Actions based on alternate facts are always going to be a kind of moral hazard because they, by definition, cannot be connected with the real cause of whatever is in in focus. The real cause(s) lie somewhere within the ambit of the real world. It is frequently very difficult to identify those causes and act effectively, but, at least, there is always a chance that the action will do the job. The right-hemisphere has to be involved because it is the side that connects us to that real world. Without its constant vigilance to keep focused on what appear to be the real issues involved in situations, individual and collective actions are likely to be ineffective. Teaching teachers how to handle guns by training them in a mibole home made to look like a schoolroom is likely to have perverse outcomes. Expect even more tragedy in the future, including dead teachers holding a gun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *