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Every year, new inventions, policies and protocols promise to protect us in a world full of downturns, injuries and outright disasters. But as the Wall Street Journal’s chief economics commentator, Greg Ip, argues in his new book, our efforts to make ourselves safer can actually create more danger. Antilock brakes and snow tires help prevent some accidents but may also prompt drivers to exercise less caution. Helmets protect athletes from some injuries but contribute to others: players, feeling padded and perhaps invincible, are more inclined to hit with their heads. And improved techniques for putting out small forest fires have increased the prevalence of big ones, as more dry brush remains on the ground for fuel. “What all these things had in common,” writes Ip, “was that they made people feel safe, and the feeling of safety allowed danger to re-emerge, often hidden from view.” To truly hedge against personal and national calamity, we should view the world as the dangerous place it is, not the risk-free, hurtless zone we want to make it.


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