What’s the relationship between public choice and pandemic policies? | UFM Talks

Isabel Cacacho  | 24 de agosto de 2021  | Vistas: 39

Coronavirus: the phenomenon that has ruled the entire world since the end of 2019. COVID-19 has come to stay and caused extreme consequences and unexpected behaviors in society. These subjects have been studied through multiple angles from science, to medicine, psychology, and many more, but in this case, it is public choice that gives very interesting points on what has been going on. Public choice applies the theories and methods of economics to the analysis of political behavior and it has revolutionized the study of democratic decision-making processes. In this conversation, Cristopher Lingle explains the relationship between public choice and public policies and their consequences during the pandemic. 

Lingle begins by pointing out the relevance of looking into the future when applying policies, by analyzing costs of implementing them and not only their temporary benefits. However, under the state of emergency, costs are overlooked, and in this case, fear was the greatest consequence towards the harsh restrictions implemented for safety and is still being used by governments as a weapon to force their public policies. They are treating this virus as they would treat war, and are taking advantage of the sacrifices that citizens make under this state of psychosis, to take control over public choice. 

“Governments take out powers that they don't relinquish during emergencies and the whole aim is to keep people alarmed by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. " - Cristopher Lingle. 

Going deeper into the aspects that led us to a global catastrophe state, Lingle explains that it all had its origin in China and the very beginning of the pandemic itself. The fact that most governments decided to follow the policies that a non-democratic country implemented, without investing in cost-benefit analysis, and accepted coercive implementations without examining them, became the first red flag towards the harm these policies could cause. Due to lack of curiosity, many people overlooked that many of those were not backed up by science, and were in fact, going against the established health protocols, and many governments were wrongfully advised. As a result, governments now have the idea that the solution to end the pandemic relies on controlling the trajectory of the virus, but this is unrealistic, and all efforts focused on this goal are irrelevant.

To mention a few more outcomes derived from the implementation of the pandemic policies, it's no surprise that social interaction was damaged terribly due to the loss of trust among individuals. Now, others are seen as potential infectors, instead of allies to accomplish our life purposes with economical and personal cooperation. Also, there are a lot of misconceptions on the infection statistics, since the results have been exaggerated through many means by governments and hospitals due to incentives applied towards the increasing cases. The vaccines have also been inefficiently administered, since governments are attempting to subject personal health to central planning and have absolute control on the population to take it when this is impossible, considering that there are too many factors that affect individual choice on accepting it, like predisposed health conditions, age, among others. 

Needless to say, the economy has been affected as well, beginning with the public debt caused by money loans made by central banks to governments who have lost their discipline to fund their programs to implement their policies. Also, a lot of actions that would not naturally be recommended, have been applied, like closing borders, quarantines, and face to face interactions, which have, indeed, had the expected results that were avoided for years, such as the fall of businesses, international trading, tourism, entertainment, and many more. This has caused thousands of people to lose their jobs and fall into poverty, which was completely disregarded.

“The recession that we are experiencing and all the economic problems are from the policy choices, not the virus.” - Cristopher Lingle

No illness should be put above all other aspects of life. This whole global crisis could have been avoided if public health had followed the protocols that have been going on for years, and different public policies were chosen. Taking the example of Sweden, where they resisted lockdown and established medical and scientific protocols, it is proven that there were many alternatives to handle the situation more efficiently and that there was no need to quarantine the entire population. Instead, they should have quarantined the vulnerable, the elder, people with immunity disorders, and those who were infected. If this was done from the beginning, herd immunity would have been easier to achieve, since it is naturally going to happen, especially now with the support of the vaccines. 

Recovery is a possibility. It will take time, but the best solutions at the time can be found through private initiatives to end the special interest privileges created by the public sector. In the meantime, Lingle encourages us to live our lives, demand our human liberty, resist fear and develop enough curiosity to question what he considers are the most destructive policies in the history of humankind. 


Economist and visiting professor