Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Post-Hurricane Rescues

In watching the coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, I thought about the incentive effects of attempting to rescue those who chose not to evacuate prior to the hurricane. Why are we paying to rescue people who failed to heed pretty clear warnings (risk of "certain death" is pretty strong language) about the need to evacuate? It seems like we are sending conflicting messages - the warning says "don't engage in risky behavior" but the rescue effort says "but if you do, we'll try to help you anyway." I suppose the big problem is that we can not distinguish between those who are unable to evacuate versus those who are unwilling.

Knowing that someone will try to help if the evacuation warning is ignored makes it more likely people will stay. They don't pay the full cost of their risky behavior. But, I guess that seems to be pretty common any more. Engage in risky behavior and look for someone else to bail you out.

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