It seems to me that I’m the one in the best position to manage my own risks; why should I want to manage the risks of others? Richard Posner smuggles in a collectivist premise when he writes:
The fact that a catastrophe is very unlikely to occur is not a rational justification for ignoring the risk of its occurrence. Suppose that a tsunami as destructive as the Indian Ocean one occurs on average once a century and kills 150,000 people. That is an average of 1,500 deaths per year. Even without attempting a sophisticated estimate of the value of life to the people exposed to the risk, one can say with some confidence that if an annual death toll of 1,500 could be substantially reduced at moderate cost, the investment would be worthwhile.
Worthwhile for whom? It so happens that I have other things I’d prefer to do with my money than spend it on than saving hundreds of theoretical people a year, so how is this a worthwhile investment for me?
Posner also ought to remember that the government program you get is never the one the wonks drew up in the ivory tower. In this case he’s effectively proposing government programs that are not expected to bear actual fruit for generations. There’s very little incentive for the people implementing these programs to get much of anything right.