Managing Risk: A Joint U.S.-German Perspective

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Ideas from a USA-FRG conference on risk management are presented. In general, the difficulties confronted by risk management authorities in the two countries are similar, from discovering important risks at an early stage to setting acceptable goals. Government regulation is overburdened and somewhat inefficient in both countries, leading to greater search for alternatives. The many differences in approach between the two countries can inform both. German risk management is done largely through negotiations among the affected parties; when this does not resolve a dispute, a specialized administrative court takes charge. In both countries nonregulatory methods of managing risk should be enhanced and given a larger role. A matrix of risk management method versus criteria proved stimulating in comparing and ranking approaches. The conceptual differences between managing discrete events (auto crashes, boiler explosions, etc.) and chronic exposures have not been appreciated. Although uncertainty and probability are involved in both, there are qualitative differences in both analysis and management. Public perceptions of risk and the role these should play have been characterized by “objectivist” and “subjectivist” positions. In the former view, risks are subject to analysis, are calculable, and the public must be educated to accept the conclusions of experts. In the latter view what people perceive is what is most important, both psychologically and politically, and the risk experts must understand public fears and desires. These are important opportunities for cross cultural studies.




Published In

Risk Analysis , 5, 1, 17-23.