Mad Cows, Terrorism and Junk Food: Should Public Policy Reflect Subjective or Objective Risks?

Discussion Paper
1 January 2008

Empirical evidence suggests that people’s risk-perceptions are often systematically biased. This paper develops a simple framework to analyse public policy when this is the case.

Expected utility (well-being) is shown to depend on both objective and subjective risks. The latter are important because of the mental suffering associated with the risk and as a basis for corrective taxation and second-best adjustments. Optimality rules for public provision of riskreducing investments, “internality-correcting” taxation and provision of (costly) information to reduce people’s risk-perception bias are presented.


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Publication | 29 November 2007