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Welcome to 'Moral Hazard' - WSJ.com
October 2, 2008 | WSJ | By DANIEL HENNINGER.

"Moral hazard" is an odd phrase. Its meaning isn't obvious though it does sound like something one ought to avoid. "Moral hazard" dates back hundreds of years in obscurity, but its use eventually settled inside the insurance business in the 19th century. The French call it risque moral.

Back then, it really was taken to mean that reducing risk too much exposed people to the hazard of poor moral judgments. If an insurer charged too little for a policy to replace farms in the English countryside, Farmer Brown might be less careful about cows knocking over oil lamps in the barn.

In time, the economists got their hands on "moral hazard," and the first thing they did was strip out the heavy moral freight to make the concept value-neutral. Now moral hazard became less about judgment and more about the economic "inefficiencies" that occur in riskless environments.

We're back to the original meaning. Losing tons of money for an institution is an economic inefficiency. Lose the nation's financial structure, however, and moral fingers get wagged.
moral_hazards  Daniel_Henninger  automotive_industry  TARP  inefficiencies  riskless  19th_century 
june 2012 by jerryking

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