Regulated Voluntary Exposure to the COVID-19 Virus: Welfare and Ethical Analysis

24 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2020

See all articles by Alon Harel

Alon Harel

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law

Alon Klement

Buchman Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University

Eyal Klement

The Hebrew University

Date Written: September 22, 2020

Abstract

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

Harel, Alon and Klement, Alon and Klement, Eyal, Regulated Voluntary Exposure to the COVID-19 Virus: Welfare and Ethical Analysis (September 22, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3697209 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3697209

Alon Harel

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Scopus
Mount Scopus, IL 91905
Israel
97 22 588 2582 (Phone)
97 22 582 3042 (Fax)

Alon Klement (Contact Author)

Buchman Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University ( email )

Tel Aviv
Israel

Eyal Klement

The Hebrew University ( email )

Israel

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