The Political Economy of State Responses to Infectious Disease

34 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2020 Last revised: 4 Sep 2020

See all articles by Christopher J. Coyne

Christopher J. Coyne

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Thomas K. Duncan

Radford University - Department of Economics

Abigail Hall

Bellarmine University - W. Fielding Rubel School for Business

Date Written: August 7, 2020

Abstract

How can public policy best deal with infectious disease? In answering this question, scholarship on the optimal control of infectious disease adopts the model of a benevolent social planner who maximizes social welfare. This approach, which treats the social health planner as a unitary “public health brain” standing outside of society, removes the policymaking process from economic analysis. This paper opens the black box of the social health planner by extending the tools of economics to the policymaking process itself. We explore the nature of the economic problem facing policymakers and the epistemic constraints they face in trying to solve that problem. Additionally, we analyze the incentives facing policymakers in their efforts to address infectious diseases and consider how they affect the design and implementation of public health policy. Finally, we consider how unanticipated system effects emerge due to interventions in complex systems, and how these effects can undermine well-intentioned efforts to improve human welfare. We illustrate the various dynamics of the political economy of state responses to infectious disease by drawing on a range of examples from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: bureaucracy, complex systems, coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19 pandemic, economic knowledge, infectious disease, polycentricism, public choice, system effects

JEL Classification: D62, D72, D73, H83, I18

Suggested Citation

Coyne, Christopher J. and Duncan, Thomas and Hall, Abigail, The Political Economy of State Responses to Infectious Disease (August 7, 2020). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 20-30, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3668934 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3668934

Christopher J. Coyne (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.ccoyne.com/

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://ppe.mercatus.org/scholars/christopher-coyne

Thomas Duncan

Radford University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 6952
Radford, VA 24142
United States

Abigail Hall

Bellarmine University - W. Fielding Rubel School for Business ( email )

United States

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