Uncertainty, Risk Aversion, and Optimal Defense Against Interruptions in Supply

Martin C. McGuire , Defence and Peace Economics 17(4) , 287-309 , August 2006.

Recent international conflicts have resurrected concerns about how to manage supply disruptions or sudden escalation of need for energy, and other critical imports such as vaccines or military components. Prominent proactive measures include support of domestic production and accumulation of reserves or maintenance of stand‐by production. This paper develops a clear transparent method for comparing instruments and for identifying the optimum policy mix. We show how a country’s risk aversion influences the best mix of policies and interacts unexpectedly with the degree of risk itself. Specifically, high‐risk aversion and low risk are shown to favor domestic production support as the better defense, and to disfavor stockpiling (and vice versa). In clarifying a country’s best policy response to risks of supply interruption, this analysis predicts how income level and risk aversion characteristics should shape arguments for and against interference with free trade on grounds of ‘national security.

Links to Researchers