Infectious Diseases and Government Growth

24 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2020 Last revised: 3 Nov 2020

See all articles by Nathan P. Goodman

Nathan P. Goodman

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Christopher J. Coyne

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

Abigail Devereaux

Wichita State University, Department of Economics

Date Written: September 3, 2020

Abstract

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world adopted a variety of policies expanding the scope of their power. Some of these effects are immediate and observable. Others, however, are not readily observable and only appear over time. We explore these long-run consequences with specific focus on how institutional changes can persist after a public health crisis ends, causing increases in state power. These changes have the potential to undermine the liberties of future persons and disrupt bottom-up, non-state processes of social coordination. We illustrate these dynamics with three historical case studies—(1) The bubonic plague in Cape Town, South Africa in 1901 and its influence on apartheid, (2) The emergence of modern zoning and urban planning in the United States in response to the cholera, typhoid, smallpox, and tuberculosis epidemics, and (3) Compulsory vaccination in response to the smallpox epidemic of 1902.

Keywords: apartheid, bubonic plague, compulsory vaccination, COVID-19, crises, infectious disease, growth of government, pandemics, ratchet effect, smallpox, zoning laws

JEL Classification: D73, H11, H12, I18

Suggested Citation

Goodman, Nathan and Coyne, Christopher J. and Devereaux, Abigail, Infectious Diseases and Government Growth (September 3, 2020). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 20-40, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3685850 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3685850

Nathan Goodman

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Christopher J. Coyne (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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

Abigail Devereaux

Wichita State University, Department of Economics ( email )

1845 Fairmount St
Wichita, KS 67260
United States

HOME PAGE: http://abigaildevereaux.com

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