The risk society: social democracy in an uncertain world

Risk Australia

John Quiggin examines the role of government as the ultimate risk manager. He argues that risk will be the defining concept of the 21st century, the way that globalisation was for the 1990s.

Any party aspiring to win this year's election will need to grapple with 'the great risk shift' - the increased exposure of individuals to everything from the vagaries of international finance, energy and labour markets, to the risk of a complete collapse of our environmental life-support systems.

The kind of deep-seated anxiety this exposure creates will not be soothed by assurances that the economy is booming, or exhortations to change our lightbulbs or buy green power.

The risks and uncertainties shared by all require a shared response, argues Quiggin.

This does not mean that we should try to protect everyone from every possible risk - overly zealous or misplaced risk management can stifle innovation and creativity. But what we can do is take a long, hard look at what kinds of risk are best managed at an individual, government or business level.

In an increasingly high-risk world, any government that fails to do this may be headed for a perfect storm.

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