Thursday, December 18, 2008

Risk by Dan Gardner

The full title of this book is Risk, The Science and Politics of Fear. It is a very interesting book. We are, in the Western World at least, the longest living, the wealthiest and we live in the safest or most peaceful societies in human history, and yet we are more fearful than past generations. Dan Gardner worries about how our fearfulness will affect our children.

In Canadian surveys, it has been found that half the population thinks that a risk-free world is possible. Also, the majority of the population thinks that our government should completely protect them from risk in their daily lives. No one, or no government, or no government agency can guarantee zero risk. Things can be made safer, but zero risk is impossible. I find it absolutely irrational that people expect to live risk free.

One of the things Dan Gardner talks about, of which I found interesting, is that of surveys of basic cultural world views. Anthropology wise, we can be slotted into one of four world views. These world views are individualist, egalitarian, hierarchist, and communitarian. Dan Gardner also mentions that there is a strong correlation between risk perception and world views.

A hierarchist is someone who believes that people should have defined places in society and respect authority. An egalitarian is someone who believes in the equality of all people, especially in political, economic, or social life. An individualist is someone who believes the answer to problems is more freedom that is, you let people determine their own choices and things will come right. A communitarian is someone who believes in placing the interests of the community above the interests of the individual.

I have some of the characteristics of a communitarian in that I believe that people should live up to their social and civic responsibilities and should not merely focus on what they are entitled to, however, I must admit that I am individualist at heart as I believe that people are responsible for what they do and for their own lives. I also certainly believe in individual freedom. However, I also feel that there must be some balance between the rights of communities and the rights of individuals.

Dan Gardner has his own site at For a review of this book, see At the web site you will find information on Mary Douglas who is an anthropologist involved in world view and risk perception.

My other book reviews are on my site at Also on my site is information on where to find this book on This blog is meant for educational purposes only, and is not to provide investment advice. Before making any investment decision, you should always do your own research or consult an investment professional. See my website at for a list of the stocks for which I have put up spreadsheets on my web site.

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