David Brooks approvingly describes the attitudes of the market-state liberals of the Obama administration in the New York Times:
When the members of this new establishment are confronted with a broken system — whether it involves hospitals, energy, air pollution or cars — their approach is the same. They aim to restructure incentives in order to channel the animal drives of the marketplace in responsible directions.
William Ecenbarger in the Smithsonian magazine asks if “we take more risks when we feel safe”:
This counterintuitive idea was introduced in academic circles several years ago and is broadly accepted today. The concept is that humans have an inborn tolerance for risk—meaning that as safety features are added to vehicles and roads, drivers feel less vulnerable and tend to take more chances. The feeling of greater security tempts us to be more reckless. Behavioral scientists call it “risk compensation.”
…The phenomenon has been observed well beyond the highway—in the workplace, on the playing field, at home, in the air. Researchers have found that improved parachute rip cords did not reduce the number of sky-diving accidents; overconfident sky divers hit the silk too late. The number of flooding deaths in the United States has hardly changed in 100 years despite the construction of stronger levees in flood plains; people moved onto the flood plains, in part because of subsidized flood insurance and federal disaster relief. Studies suggest that workers who wear back-support belts try to lift heavier loads and that children who wear protective sports equipment engage in rougher play…
Walter Shapiro explains why “Americans like Big Government” in The New Republic, even though that old Ronald Reagan line about “I’m here from the government and I’m here to help” still goes over well: because when federally-funded projects are successful, local politicians take the credit – and when it fails – they pass up the blame:
Even if these projects turn out to be the greatest job-creation engine since the construction of the pyramids, Obama and the stimulus package would only receive marginal political credit. Governor Ted Strickland will undoubtedly brag about the new roads and bridges when he runs for reelection next year and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman will bask in the success of the police academy’s Class of ’09. This is not ingratitude, but an illustration of how the political game works. The feds pay the bills (and sometimes take the heat), while state and local officials never miss a ribbon cutting.
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