In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts chats with Greg Ip of the Wall Street Journal about his new book, Foolproof.

How do people formulate their attitudes toward risk? How do people respond to policies that try to insulate them from risk? How should policymakers take these responses into account? These questions and more are highlights from the conversation. Now let’s continue that conversation offline.


1. In this recent Econlib column, Arnold Kling explores Ip’s distinction between two philosophies for handling risk, those of the “engineers” and the “ecologists.” Which style is better for dealing with risk or is it a matter of the context and setting for the risk?2. Ip argues that attempts to reduce risk often lead to riskier behavior. Is there a difference when policies to reduce risk come from the public sector vs. private decisions?

3. How did the FDIC, in trying to safeguard people’s savings, design a system that is inherently fragile? Were some of the inevitable consequences in fact foreseeable? How does deposit insurance illustrate the sort of “systemic risk” that Ip argues can also be illustrated by the US Forest Service’s forest fire policy?

4. Roberts and Ip discuss the current controversy over concussions in the NFL. In your opinion, as the NFL adequately addressed these concerns? Related, Ip mentions the role of spectacle in football (and other sports), arguing that this is a reflection of societal expectations about and tolerance about risk. What do you think would have to transpire to alter such macro level attitudes?