Search This Blog

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tradeoffs and Unwanted Side Effects

In our chapters on economic policy and social policy and the welfare state, we note that public policy often involves tradeoffs and unwanted side effects. A couple of recent news stories provide illustrations.

As the Los Angeles Times explains, airport screening aims to make travel safer, but security measures may entail certain risks:
After the Christmas Day incident, the TSA gave airline crews the discretion to bar passengers on international flights to the U.S. from getting out of their seats for one hour before the planes land. Passengers who are overweight, have a history of blood clotting or are recovering from surgery face a greater risk of deep-vein thrombosis when they sit in a cramped airline seat for too long, which can hamper blood flow to the legs, said Peter Lawrence, chief of vascular surgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
The New York Times shows how "green" technology may have environmentally and socially destructive implications:

Some of the greenest technologies of the age, from electric cars to efficient light bulbs to very large wind turbines, are made possible by an unusual group of elements called rare earths. The world’s dependence on these substances is rising fast.

Just one problem: These elements come almost entirely from China, from some of the most environmentally damaging mines in the country, in an industry dominated by criminal gangs.