Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2017

Session Schedule & Abstracts

* Disclaimer: All presentations represent the views of the authors, and not the organizations that support their research. Please apply the standard disclaimer that any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in abstracts, posters, and presentations at the meeting are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other organization or agency. Meeting attendees and authors should be aware that this disclaimer is intended to apply to all abstracts contained in this document. Authors who wish to emphasize this disclaimer should do so in their presentation or poster. In an effort to make the abstracts as concise as possible and easy for meeting participants to read, the abstracts have been formatted such that they exclude references to papers, affiliations, and/or funding sources. Authors who wish to provide attendees with this information should do so in their presentation or poster.

Common abbreviations

Symposium: U.S. National Security Interests and Transnational Security Decision Making

Room: Salon 1   10:30 am–12:00 pm

Chair(s): James Baker

Sponsored by Risk Policy and Law Specialty Group

Behavioral public choice theory provides important analytical perspectives to inform the study of transnational security decision making in national and international forums. Such inquiry is a critical component of 21st-century rule-of-law analysis because complex global relationships defined in public law are increasingly central to the efficient and effective conduct of security strategies and human rights initiatives. As the international community confronts old and new global security problems, executives have the opportunity to face them with improved laws and decision frameworks that more perfectly anticipate humanity’s many cognitive and behavioral shortcomings. In this Symposium, Slovic, a psychologist, observes that there is often a disconnect between the high value placed on saving human lives expressed by top government officials and the apparent low value revealed by government decisions not to intervene to protect those lives. Specifically, when multiple objectives are in play, highly regarded humanitarian values seem to collapse in the competition with national security and economic security objectives. Delaney, a legal scholar, identifies opportunities for government attorneys to help the president and other senior national security officials resist that collapse. Specifically, attorneys can help government decision makers identify and decide in favor of humanitarian interests by, for example, making transnational law’s welfare interests more salient and improving the design of legal and policy decision making processes. He also observes that attorneys can help advance the development of transnational law on subjects like the use of force, genocide, and torture by conducting behavioral public choice analyses of existing transnational frameworks. Baker, who served as President Clinton’s national security lawyer, and Stearns, a public choice scholar, will discuss the behavioral framework from those perspectives.

T2-J.1  10:30 am  Confronting the Collapse of Humanitarian Values in Foreign Policy Decision Making. Slovic P*; Decision Research and University of Oregon

Abstract: Decisions to save civilian lives by intervening in foreign countries are some of the most difficult and controversial choices facing national decision makers. Although each situation is unique, decisions involving tradeoffs that pit the value of human lives against other important objectives are quite common. Furthermore, there is often a striking disconnect between the high value placed on saving human lives expressed by top government officials and the apparent low value revealed by government decisions not to intervene. Specifically, when multiple objectives are in play, highly regarded humanitarian values appear to collapse in the competition with national security and economic security objectives, no matter how many thousands or millions of lives are at stake. I shall discuss the implications of this bias that demotivates efforts to intervene in massive humanitarian crises within the evolving discipline known as Behavioral Public Choice. Within this framework, officials have the opportunity to face tradeoffs between security and humanitarian objectives with improved laws and decision making procedures less susceptible to cognitive and behavioral shortcomings.

T2-J.2  10:50 am  Overcoming the Prominence Effect in Transnational Security Decisions. Delaney D*; University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security, Carey School of Law

Abstract: Senior public officials must frequently decide among competing policy interests that are rooted in complex assessments of morality, the rule of law, politics, and many other things. Whether to intervene militarily to prevent or stop a humanitarian crisis is one example. Decision researchers describe a prominence effect that leads those facing complex policy tradeoffs to decide in favor of the more inherently important, defensible attribute. This article presents prominence as an impediment to faithful application of transnational humanitarian law. It explores opportunities to identify and quantify the law’s welfare interests, make those interests more salient to decision makers, and design decision-making environments with greater opportunity to mitigate the prominence effect. Public choice theory, choice architecture, and behavioral ethics are central to this approach. The article also considers these issues from a practitioner’s perspective and proposes that federal attorneys be subject to a more rigorous ethics rule on advising public officials about economic, moral, and other dimensions of transnational legal issues.

T2-J.3  11:10 am  Behavioral Considerations in Context: Crisis Decision Making by Senior Public Officials. Baker JE*; ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security

Abstract: Judge James Baker will offer commentary on the papers from the perspective of a legal scholar and White House advisor on national security decisions. Focus areas may include: formal and informal processes that presidents and cabinet members adopt for national security decisions; Congress’s national security powers as they relate to executive branch decision-making processes; the suitability of national and transnational decision-making processes in specific bodies of transnational law (e.g., targeting decisions under the law of armed conflict); and opportunities to improve legal support provided to senior government officials.

T2-J.4  11:30 am  A Public Choice Perspective on Behavioral Approaches to National Security Decision Making. Stearns M*; University of Maryland Carey School of Law

Abstract: Max Stearns will offer commentary on the paper informed by the perspective of public choice broadly defined, and more conventional law and economics analysis, based on which tools he concludes are most relevant in assessing its implications for law and public policy. The relevant tools will combine neoclassical economics, interest group theory, social choice, and game theory, as these tools relate to the underlying project.

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