Cass R. Sunstein
Harvard Law School
Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 28, June 1998.
Human beings are selectively fatalistic. Some risks appear as "background noise," whereas other, quantitatively identical risks cause enormous concern. This essay explores the reasons for selective fatalism and possible legal responses. Sometimes selective fatalism is a product of distributional issues, as people focus on risks that face particular groups; sometimes selective fatalism is a product of heuristics and biases. Selective fatalism might be overcome by an emphasis, as a regulatory starting point, on how many "decently livable life years" might be saved by regulation.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 20, 1998
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