Information about national security also tends to be precautionary because it is provided by a security establishment with an interest in a sense of danger. William C. Clark, writing about the history of risk assessment, notes that medieval Europeans did not much fear witches until they created an inquisition to find them. The inquisition provided its members work, encouraging them to justify it with a threat. The institutionalization of the hunt heightened perceptions of the danger hunted. A similar problem haunts modern Americans. The large supply of defense creates a large demand for it.
HAVING recently had an opportunity to read "After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy," a new book from West Virginia University economist (and onetime Free Exchange guest blogger) Chris Coyne, I've found myself trying out his application of economic principles to the analysis of armed conflicts, particularly in the case of America's current occupation of Iraq. This has proven especially useful in light of the forthcoming presidential primaries, which have forced candidates to at least superficially offer their recommendations for future Iraq policy.
Witches Floods and Wonder Drugs: an historical perspective on risk management by W C Clarke