24.8.07

Kip Viscusi on wasteful risk management

In an interview with "Region Focus", a magazin published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Kip Viscusi provides an unbebelievably high number of the costs of a cancer case prvented by means of environmental protection:

"... with most regulations, the costs are not explicit. There are no price tags attached to them.
Also, the costs are often borne by different parties. So, for instance, in the case of Superfund cleanups of hazardous wastes, the people who benefit from the cleanups are not paying the costs directly and thus demand the most stringent standards possible. The result is that the median cost per cancer case averted is about $7 billion. It’s off the charts because you are using the responsible parties’ money to clean up the site. In contrast, if you look at the amount of money people are willing to pay for houses that are not exposed to hazardous waste risks, you don’t observe that kind of large trade-off at all. It’s more like $5 million rather than $7 billion. Similarly, the premium that workers require to work in relatively dangerous jobs is a lot less than what government agencies spend on regulations."

Interview W. Kip Viscusi in "Region Focus", Spring 2007, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

23.8.07

Unproductive creativity: Hotel lamp switches

Dan Heath complains about too much creativity in the design of hotle lamp switches.

He writes:
Every lamp in a hotel room will have an on/off switch that’s different than the others. It’s a kind of intelligence test — my hand instinctively reaches under the shade for the switch, only to find that it’s on the base, or I’ll paw the entire lamp to discover that the switch is 6 inches down the power cord. Etc. In other words, I am constantly failing some kind of cosmic intelligence test. ....

It is hard to disagree.