Regulated Voluntary Exposure to the COVID-19 Virus: Welfare and Ethical Analysis
24 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 22, 2020
This Essay examines the societal and ethical implications of a regulated voluntary exposure strategy for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Under the proposed strategy the state would allow healthy and young individuals to voluntarily expose themselves to the virus and thus get immunized against future infection. These individuals would be certified as immune, and then be allowed to return to lead normal life without risking others. This strategy would reduce the time for bringing about herd-immunity, and would also reduce overall mortality and demand for the health care system. We show that under certain conditions the voluntary exposure strategy is welfare enhancing and Pareto-superior to any other strategy. We then examine the proposal’s ethical implications and discuss potential concerns relating to the voluntariness of program participants, and to the proposal’s allocative and redistributive implications. We show that objections to the proposal by-and-large rest on ‘the Nirvana fallacy’, which compares a perfect (and, consequently, unrealistic) world in which there is no voluntary exposure with the imperfect world in which voluntary exposure is encouraged.
Keywords: COVID-19, Law and Economics, Ethics
JEL Classification: k32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation