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[culture | politics] Transferring risk - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-04-28 16:52
Subject: [culture | politics] Transferring risk
Security: Public
Tags:culture, guns, politics
I've been noodling with this idea about transferring risk. It's something that's bothered me for a while.

Two examples:

1) Vaccination protestors who refuse to have their children vaccinated for polio, measles, whooping cough, etc. There's a belief out there about a link between the trace mercury in older vaccines and the appearance of autism. I've never seen convincing evidence of causation from credible double blind studies, but it's a very important issue to a certain subgroup of parents. Many of the parents in the_child's class at school fall in this category.

Vaccination protest only works if the vast majority of other parents vaccinate their children regardless of the perceived risk from the vaccines. If too many parents skip the vaccines, the diseases return -- as whooping cough has begun to do -- with far more serious consequences to population of children, statistically, than the vaccines themselves.

In effect, parents who believe vaccines are dangerous are transferring the risk to the parents who don't believe it, and relying on those other parents to endanger their children to keep the unvaccinated children safe.

2) SUV drivers who have chosen their vehicles for the sake of accident survival and traffic safety. This is an oft-cited reason for purchasing an SUV. It's my understanding that the survival rate drops for people in accidents with an SUV involved where the second vehicle is an ordinary automobile, due to the mass differential, and the geometry of SUVs.

In effect, SUV drivers are transferring their risk to non-SUV drivers, raising their chances of survival by endangering the chances of the of the other driver.

I don't believe for a moment that vaccination protestors or SUV drivers are making choices with the intent of being deliberately destructive to others. I'm just noodling with the idea of how risk is transferred by these choices, rather than reduced or eliminated. Is it a social good that these risks get moved from one population to another, where the population experiencing the increased risk has no say in the matter?

The same logic applies to private gun ownership. Allow me to momentarily concede for the sake of argument that the most optimistic claims for the value of handguns in home defense and personal safety are valid. If Citizen A has a handgun and Citizen B does not have a handgun, and Criminal X is aware of these facts, Citizen B has assumed a meaningul portion of Citizen A's risk from predation by Criminal X. Does this imply, for example, that everyone should be armed to avoid this effect?

Again, no conclusion, just looking at a social phenomenon which interests me.
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brixtonbrood
User: brixtonbrood
Date: 2007-04-29 14:57 (UTC)
Subject: Idly curious
Was this trigger any exposure to cows milk whatsoever (eg on morning cereal)? or being given it as a serious drink instead of breast milk or formula?
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Twilight: Evil Again (Arvin)
User: twilight2000
Date: 2007-04-29 00:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Evil Again (Arvin)
I have to admit, I get all kinds of unreasonable when someone tells me they "don't vaccinate" -- as an historian and a medic, i know what a severe outbreak of polio or whooping cough (to say nothing of diptheria) looks like and how devastating it is.

Someone who refuses vaccination immediately makes (consciously or otherwise) one of a couple of damnably short-sited assumptions:
a) enough other folks will do so that the disease won't return
b) the disease is dead enough that it can't come back
c) it won't affect *my* child (yea, the faeries will protect her)

I understand they believe they have a good reason -- I simply (and admittedly, rather emotionally) reject it as both wrong and short-sighted. It's one of the few times I'm pleased to have the gov't require behaviour to be allowed into certain programs (must have vaccines to attend public school). The exemptions for (i don't frankly care what reason) endanger not just my child, but the general population and piss me the hell off.

Not a topic I'm terribly reasonable about when trying to "argue" -- which is embarassing for an old competitive debator -- but there you are.
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bemused_leftist
User: bemused_leftist
Date: 2007-04-29 00:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I tend to agree about the SUVs, but I'm not so sure about the vaccinations. The parents who are sure the vaccinations are safe, aren't being harmed by the Abstainers sfaics, because the Suretheyaresafe parents would give the vaccinations anyway. Wouldn't there have to be a large percentage of Abstainers, before the disease could revive? And by that time, the side-effect issue might be corrected.

Offhand it seems to me perhaps a legitimate case for difference of opinion. If a parent did fear the vaccination but wss pressured into it -- and their child did get a serious side-effect -- that parent would have a terrible grief; the whole family could be emotionally sickened.

Also, as the other poster pointed out, sometimes causes combine in an odd way. A family where Grandfather Joe and Cousin Emma and neighbors had side-effects, may be right to hold out, even though some people would dismiss their experience as coincidence. There are situations where one person's free ride doesn't diminish the other. A family of Abstainers can be seen as a 'control' on the experiment. Also -- eggs and baskets.



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brixtonbrood
User: brixtonbrood
Date: 2007-04-29 10:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Indeed, the additional risk is mostly borne not by the children who are vaccinated, but the children whose immune system does not allow them to be vaccinated at all, by the children of unstable homes who slip through the net, and by adult men and women who have not been vaccinated as children for whatever reason (perhaps recent immigrants from a country where routine vaccination wasn't practiced). Also by babies (especially in a group day care situation) who are too young to have had their MMR.

Except that many of these vaccines do not have 100% efficiency. MMR for example is only 90% effective after the first dose, which is fine if (almost) everyone gets both shots, leaving only the under 1s and 10% of pre-schoolers unprotected - that's enough coverage. However, once you dilute the coverage even further, the 10% natural coverage gap between ages 1 and 4 becomes significant, so the children of compliant parents remain exposed (although less so).
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jtdiii
User: jtdiii
Date: 2007-04-29 01:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have had this argument with a few friends who seem to think that vaccines are the cause of various autisms. Note, the age at which you detect autism is around the time of the vaccines. The age of the parents at conception seem to be a much greater statistical correlation than the vaccines themselves. Still people see that their child had a vaccine, had a reaction, and then were diagnosed as autistic. It is much easier to blame the faceless corporation than to consider that there were some other much earlier factors that may have started much closer to home.

As for the owners, yes if the criminal knows that Citizen B does not have a gun, that does move a great deal of Citizen A's risk onto B. However as the vast majority of criminals do not know, when a large subset of the population is armed, that reduces the overall risk of both Citizen A and Citizen B as the criminal begins to realize that crime is becoming far less lucrative and far, far riskier for him/her.

As for the risks for unvaccinated children, as their numbers increase they also face an increased risk of developing the diseases that they were not vaccinated for, as the total population of unvaccinated children increases and the vaccinated children no longer provide a sufficient fire break and isolation for the unvaccinated. At which point their parents will demand to know why the government did not do more to protect them...
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User: ex_frankwu
Date: 2007-04-29 01:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As far as vaccines go...

I don't think that the current way vaccines are given is right at all.

Usually you bring your infant to the doctor and he gives you three or four vaccines all at once. Jiminy! He does this because he knows you are loathe to make multiple trips - which would be better. Can you imagine how much effort an immune system has to go through to deal with three or four simulated infections at the same time? Perhaps there is some connection with the fact that diabetes is an AUTOIMMUNE disease - where your confused immune system can't tell your own cells from enemy cells.

My pet theory is that Gulf War Syndrome is caused by soldiers getting immunized to a whole slew of weird things ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

The other thing is that if there are traces of impurities in vaccines, and you spread them out, hey, it's just traces, no biggie. If you get them all at the same time, you're multiplying the risk.

Oh, and cow's milk is bad for you. It's full of bovine serum albumin (the most common protein in blood and cows). It's a bad, bad allergen. But if you heat up the milk, you can denature the protein and then it's safe to drink.

Frank, who studies this sort of thing for a living.

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bemused_leftist
User: bemused_leftist
Date: 2007-04-29 01:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes, it's an incremental issue. The more unvaccinated children, the greater their risk. But if we can trust the health authorities' assesement of the drugs' safety now, can't we trust those authorities to know when the number of unvaccinated children is approaching a danger level, and to weigh the risks correctly, and to make vaccination compulsory then if necessary?
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A Wandering Hobbit
User: redbird
Date: 2007-04-29 12:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One problem there is that the health authorities have limited authority over people outside the health care system: that is, they have more power to say "if you make a medication, it must not contain X/must contain Y/must have the amount of Z you say it does" than to say "you must give your child medication M and vaccine V."

There are also questions of data collection: who tracks what percentage of children get the measles vaccine, and how are the data aggregated? For example, if the overall vaccination rate is 94%, that can still include a county where it's 12%, and towns in other counties where it's 50%, both of which are risky.
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In a heaven of people only some want to fly
User: chipmunk_planet
Date: 2007-04-29 01:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There's anecdotal evidence that "packing" states (where it's easy to get a carry permit, like Oklahoma) have less violent crime. So maybe the states where the majority don't "carry" are just getting the crime burden shifted over to them.

But then hardly anyone LIVES here in OK, so ... :)
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cyperus_papyrus: country road
User: cyperus_papyrus
Date: 2007-04-29 02:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:country road
I think about these things too. It seems like most people are not aware of how risks stack up against one another, which is an interesting problem. For example, people who are afraid of vaccinations often seem unaware of the risks of the illnesses that the vaccinations are designed to prevent. People who drive SUVs often don't drive as attentively, just because they assume they are safer, ignoring things such as these vehicles have a tendancy to roll, so are they really reducing their risk (though of course there is the mass-always-wins problem for smaller vehicles). I've twice seen two vehicles back straight into each other in a parking lot, both drivers at fault both times, and both times both vehicles were SUVs -- who doesn't look out their rearview mirror and see the giant vehicle they are about to hit?

Anyway, it's interesting to contemplate, because I don't think there is a simple transfer of risk, it's more complicated than that. And often people's heuristics have them focusing on eliminating more minor risks and ignoring more serious risks. Many of us aren't good at evaluating risks.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2007-04-29 05:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
An unvaccinated child exposes other children to mumps (sterilisation), measles and mumps (deafness and blindness, sometimes both, and brain damage). See my separate post lower down.
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Hannah
User: buymeaclue
Date: 2007-04-29 21:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My mom likes to have an SUV for the four-wheel drive in the winter and because it's higher, so she feels like she has a better view of the road. I've suggested the Suburu wagons as an alternative for the former (along with all the other cars that come with 4WD or AWD, but they want dog and baggage space), but I've got nothing to answer the height issue. Which I think falls in the accident-avoidance category you mention.

(I do bitch, in turn, about SUVs and vans that have headlights at _exactly_ the level of my rearview mirror. And I feel much safer in a handy car with a low center of gravity than I do driving my folks' Jeep.)

I don't blame people for wanting a safe and sturdy car in case of accidents, if only because you can't trust that other people won't be stupid, or won't hit a patch of ice, or such. But yeah, agreed: I'd muuuch rather stay clear of crashes in the first place, if at all possible.
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fjm
User: fjm
Date: 2007-04-29 05:26 (UTC)
Subject: Third party insurance
One way of tackling a "not our child" meme is to introduce third party insurance. You are allowed not to vaccinate your child if you take out third party insurance so that the child next door, born deaf and blind, as a result of your child's "natural childhood illness" has enough money for the rest of its life, and so that you can pay for artificial insemination for the young man next door's future wife after he discovers he was sterilised at the age of fourteen by you child's "mild" attack of mumps.

The biggest problem we face is simple: most young parents don't remember these illnesses. Those n the 38-44 age bracket may be the last UK/US generation to remember the misery of the summer spent in bed with mumps, and the child "tragically" injured by an older sibling's illness.

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fastfwd
User: fastfwd
Date: 2007-04-29 09:30 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Third party insurance
Amen, sister.

Most young parents seems to believe that the diseases we vaccinate against have been eradicated and thus, no vaccinations are needed any more.

They should listen to my mother describe what it was like to have diptheria. Or my son's father could tell them what it was like to have scarlet fever. I personally can give a lurid account of measles, or second-hand accounts from people I went to university with who got caught in a polio epidemic.
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Coffee Shop Whore: Typewriter Detail
User: skidspoppe
Date: 2007-04-29 05:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Typewriter Detail
Isn't there some physical law, like the "conservation of Mass" or somesuch, where there is a set amount of the stuff and nothing you do will eliminate any of it, but you can change its shape?

That's what's happening with risk. There's a certain amount which MUST be distributed and if you are taking some of yours away, then that portion must go to someone else.

Of course, this sounds like something Alfred Bester would have written about.
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brixtonbrood
User: brixtonbrood
Date: 2007-04-29 10:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think that if the risks were a zero sum game then the health authorities of the world would be behaving strangely in pursuing a policy of mass vaccination at immense cost!
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Cat Hellisen
User: cathellisen
Date: 2007-04-29 06:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm sure my FIL would have a thing or two to say about people who don't vaccinate their children, seeing as how he is crippled as a result of polio.

Also, I cannot fully express the loathing I feel for people who drive SUVs. Rich people showing off their wealth, while they help destroy the environment. They are also incapable of using indicators and following the rules of the road, so I suspect it's a personality-type thing.
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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2007-04-29 07:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:quo vadis
"I don't believe for a moment that vaccination protestors or SUV drivers are making choices with the intent of being deliberately destructive to others."

Not deliberately destructive in the sense of directly wanting to hurt other people, but deliberately destructive in the sense of saying "if I have an accident with someone else, they'll be the one's who are hurt, not me." I have heard some SUV owners say that sort of thing.

Besides accident outcomes, it is worth mentioning that a classic SUV also causes more pollution, hurting other people who gain no benefit from the SUV, for the sake of perceived convenience/safety/whatever for the owner.

I read somewhere a nice description of SUVs: a stupid solution to the stupid problem of how to make minivans seem macho instead of soccer-mom-ish.
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Simon Bradshaw
User: major_clanger
Date: 2007-04-29 09:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I heard Bruce Schneier give a very interesting talk the other day on how the human brain understands and misunderstands risk; a longer version is online here.

We've been vaccinating people for two hundred years. It depresses me that even with this weight of experience behind us, it's still not universally accepted.
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User: eljaydaly
Date: 2007-04-29 10:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The premise is fascinating.

What about motorcycle helmets? (I'm not a motorcyclist, so I don't know the ins and outs, but it came to mind. I'm just imagining.) That would be indirect, I suppose, because the risk is transferred as consequences: don't wear a helmet, and the other guy is more likely to kill you, and be forced to live with that. On the other hand, not wearing a helmet doesn't make it more likely that another driver will be injured.

Condoms? Lifejackets? Indirect, again. It feels like it would have to be some sort of a closed system for the transference to be direct.

I'd love to see the book or story that comes out of this.
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User: miladyinsanity
Date: 2007-04-29 14:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Me too.

You know, I think you might be able to find some papers on this in behavioural economics.
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