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Regulation and the Risk of Inaction

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Two complex and conflicting objectives shape altruistic regulation of human activity: maximizing net social good and mitigating incidental individual loss. Eminent domain provides a superficially simple example: To build a road that benefits ten thousand people, a government evicts – and compensates – the ten people whose homes are in the way. But in many cases, individual loss is not fully compensable, most strikingly when that loss involves death: Whatever her actual detriment, a person who dies cannot be “made whole.” And indeed, more than 30,000 people lose their lives on US roadways every year while more than 300 million obtain some direct or indirect benefit from motorized transport.


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Smith, B. (2015). Regulation and the Risk of Inaction. In: Maurer, M., Gerdes, J., Lenz, B., Winner, H. (eds) Autonomes Fahren. Springer Vieweg, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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