Call for papers – Workshop on the Ethics of Social Risk

Risk is everywhere and always has been. However, the nature of man-made risks is changing. For most human beings, though unfortunately not all, war and various forms of direct, violent oppression are no longer among the most significant risks they face. Replacing these are forms of indirect, systemic risk, where the actions of other individuals or of society as a whole create significant potential downsides for individuals.

To take just two examples, consider the near-consensus that economic activity leads to an increase in the variability of climate patterns, affecting the lives of many through more uncertain access to food and water, and to longer spells of extreme temperatures. Second, as illustrated by the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent years, the current regulation of financial institutions is more prone to generate crises that spill over from finance into the real economy and have a profound effect on the material well-being of individuals. These examples, and many more, raise the issue of the ethics of human activity when increased risks to others are a by-product.

The workshop aims to address issues of risk both at a theoretical level and in a variety of applied policy settings. Below is a non-exhaustive list of questions that presentations at the workshop might address:

  • How to account for risk and uncertainty in establishing social preferences? This poses the question of the aggregation of individual risk attitudes in a heterogeneous society.
  • How to evaluate public policies on the basis of the risk sharing they impose on citizens? From an operational standpoint, how should risk be incorporated in cost-benefit analyses of health policies, for example?
  • How should redistributive policies account for risks and uncertainties that affect members of society in different ways?
  • To what extent can and should efforts be made to reduce exposure to global risks?

Keynote speakers:

Marc Fleurbaey (Princeton University)
Luc Bovens (London School of Economics)
Christian Traeger (University of California, Berkeley)

Those interested in participating in the workshop should send an abstract of 500 words to peter.dietsch@umontreal.ca by April 15th 2015.


Peter Dietsch, Philosophie, Université de Montréal
Justin Leroux, Économie appliquée, HEC Montréal