Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Lampposts, Vandalism, and Insulation

In Wavrechain-sous-Denain in northern France, vandals damaged a lamppost. As a result, a live wire was left in contact with the post. The charge in the lamppost was strong enough that when a dog urinated on the lamppost, it was electrocuted and died.[Thanks to JC for the link]

It let out a yelp and died on the spot.

The owner received a shock when he tried to help the dog and was taken to hospital, the town hall said.

Even if the vandals could be apprehended, they are probably judgement-proof, meaning they will not be able to compensate the dog's owner for having caused the short. So who should bear the loss, given that it has happened? Who is the least-cost bearer of this risk? The municipality or the dog owner?

In addition to questions of foreseeability [see Water Mound 1 & 2], the answer depends on the cost of making the insulation and wiring stronger and less susceptible to short-out damage from vandals versus the value of a dog. This is not a fun calculus to have to make in public, and yet politicians and courts must make choices like this all the time.
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