What is moral hazard?
Let’s say that you have a gambling problem. You like to bet on football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. Professional, college, or high school — it doesn’t matter. You visit your local casino to bet on cards. You bet on the coin flip at the start of a football game. You will bet on anything.
Now generally people like this will end up in trouble at some point or another if they cannot control their vice. I have seen friends of mine get into this sort of trouble. It isn’t pretty. At some point they hit a losing streak and end up owing a “bookie”, more than they have. At some point after this happens, their debts get called. If the debt is called and you don’t have the money, “something bad” will happen.
However, lucky for you your Uncle Samuel is wealthy. When you get into trouble, you call Uncle Samuel to “bail” you out of this mess. Being a loving uncle, he gives you money to keep you from being the victim of “something bad”. Now maybe this scares you straight and you give up your gambling vice and you never gamble again. More likely than not, this “bail out” will only fuel your appetite for gambling (risk taking). Since you didn’t have to experience the pain of “something bad”, you will feel free to engage in the same destructive behavior as before. This time you might take greater risks with your bets. Why not? Your wealthy Uncle Samuel can come to your aid, and he has a lot more money than you do. So the pattern continues.
As your behavior continues, the pattern repeats itself. As you keep getting bailed out and your appetite for risk increases. This is an example of moral hazard. Moral hazard is a lack of incentive to protect against risks because someone else is bearing the risk for you. The best example of moral hazard is the treatment of large financial institutions in 2008 by the US government and related government entities.