Mijn wensen voor 2013

NEW YORK – Het hoogtepunt van 2012 kwam voor mij toen ik op een moeilijk moment een boodschap van steun kreeg van een brandweerman. Zijn punt was dat hij mijn ideeën over risico's heel makkelijk te begrijpen vond. Zijn vraag was: hoe komt het dat allerlei risicogoeroe's, academici en financiële modelleurs het niet snappen?

Het antwoord staarde me recht in het gezicht. De man is brandweerman; hij kan het zich niet veroorloven risico's verkeerd in te schatten. Hij is degene die directe schade zou leiden als gevolg van zijn fout. Met andere woorden: er staat voor hem iets op het spel. En bovendien is hij eerbaar, want hij riskeert zijn eigen leven zonder enige bonus.

Het idee dat er iets op het spel moet staan is van fundamenteel belang voor het ordentelijk functioneren van een ingewikkelde wereld. In een ondoorzichtig systeem hebben mensen een motief om risico's te verbergen en wel de positieve, maar niet de negatieve effecten te vermelden. En er is geen enkele methode van risicobeheer die het idee dat er iets op het spel moet staan kan vervangen – vooral als de ondoorzichtigheid wordt versterkt door asymmetrie in de informatievoorziening, naast wat economen het 'principal agent'-probleem noemen.

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