A Moral Hazard Danger

Charles Wheelan, the Naked Economist at Yahoo! Finance, asks some tough questions about US military service.

Link: A Moral Hazard of Global Proportions: The Naked Economist – Yahoo! Finance

…has our extraordinary all-volunteer military created a moral hazard problem?

…moral hazard is the idea that individuals behave differently — and sometimes badly, from society’s standpoint — when they don’t have to bear the full cost of their actions.

Americans can vote to send troops to without facing any risk of fighting themselves.

For all the bombast surrounding Iraq, to my mind the most subtle question gets too little attention: Would the same Americans who were originally for the war — both the politicians and the electorate who strongly supported them — have made the same decision if they, or their children, actually faced some risk? In other words, has our extraordinary all-volunteer military created a moral hazard problem?

While this may seem like heaping criticism on an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, the question is equally applicable to humanitarian interventions around the globe, particularly in places where U.S. interests aren’t directly threatened.

Patriotism is cheap right now. And so, too, is humanitarianism. All it takes for most of us to demand that America "do something" is a comfortable chair and a remote control. But there is nothing cheap about "doing something" for the men and woman who actually have to do it.