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Using Mathematica 6 to Inform Political Debate

Seth J. Chandler
Organization: Unversity of Houston Law Center

2007 Wolfram Technology Conference
Conference location

Champaign, IL


Since the devastation wrought to the American Gulf Coast by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and spurred in part by the apparent rise in the frequency of severe storms, concerns have grown in Texas that a system put in place to aid coastal residents and businesses in acquiring insurance against hurricane damage may end up actually exacerbating the catastrophe that would be created by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane slamming into highly populated or highly industrialized portions of the Texas coast. Difficulty in envisioning the consequences of either the current system and proposals for its reform, coupled with the sensitivity of predictions to contestable assumptions about the expected damage from future storms, readily permit legislators with different regional interests from grappling fully with the existing threat. While even Mathematica 6 cannot conquer self-interest, its flexibility and visualization capabilities permit rationalization of political debate on even the most hotly contested issues. This talk discusses the development of a model created in Mathematica that interactively computes and visualizes the consequences of the interaction between hurricane damage and legal regulation of insurance. In particular, it explores how the damage resulting from different hurricane strikes would be allocated among coastal residents and businesses, insurers and policyholders statewide, and Texas taxpayers. It further permits interactive exploration of the ways in which the risk to various constituencies vary as one changes assumptions relating to the ensemble of potential windstorms and the legal regulation of insurance. Finally, it shows how technologies such as Demonstrations facilitate distribution of the concepts contained in the model and should enhance public involvement in the debate.

*Mathematica Technology
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InformPoliticalDebate.nb (952.1 KB) - Mathematica Notebook [for Mathematica 6.0]
InformPoliticalDebateSupplement.nb (184.6 KB) - Mathematica Notebook [for Mathematica 6.0]