Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2006


This essay inquires into the political economy and system of governance that have made catastrophes more frequent and severe. The system of governance that is designed to mitigate risk and respond to catastrophes can be ineffective, or worse, increase the risk of harm through unintended consequences. Human influence must be considered a source of collateral risk, the kind that leads to a systemic crisis or exacerbates one. This essay concludes with some brief proposals, discussion topics more than completed ideas, which may facilitate further academic and political dialogue on effective governance and public risk management. They include a catastrophe tax, the elimination of subsidies for bad risks, reduction of coordination costs, and a clearer understanding of a public-private partnership.

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