I recently received the latest newsletter from my local general health district. Inside was an article on the “proliferating” number of area tattoo and piercing parlors. The health district was proud to note that it “works diligently to ensure that local parlors meet Ohio’s health laws and requirements.” It does this by performing annual inspections of the shops.
This means that the health district can affirm that on one day of the year, patrons were safe ex post (or not safe, for that matter). But patrons care about safety ex ante.
An annual inspection provides only .27% chance of ex post safety, well below the de minimis of someone wanting 100% of ex ante safety. So patrons have to trust the owners — they do.
Owners satisfy patrons’ desire for safety and, consequently, tattoo and piercing parlors are proliferating.
Of course, the health district takes credit for the safety of the patrons even though the health district cannot guarantee it. Nor can the health district provide it. Only the parlor owners can provide safety. And they do, despite government.