Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis

90 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2020

See all articles by Marcella Alsan

Marcella Alsan

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Luca Braghieri

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Sarah Eichmeyer

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Minjeong Joyce Kim

Harvard University

Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University - Department of Economics

David Y. Yang

Harvard University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2020

Abstract

The respect for and protection of civil liberties are one of the fundamental roles of the state, and many consider civil liberties as sacred and “nontradable.” Using cross-country representative surveys that cover 15 countries and over 370,000 respondents, we study whether and the extent to which citizens are willing to trade off civil liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the largest crises in recent history. We find four main results. First, many around the world reveal a clear willingness to trade off civil liberties for improved public health conditions. Second, consistent across countries, exposure to health risks is associated with citizens’ greater willingness to trade off civil liberties, though individuals who are more economically disadvantaged are less willing to do so. Third, attitudes concerning such trade-offs are elastic to information. Fourth, we document a gradual decline and then plateau in citizens’ overall willingness to sacrifice rights and freedom as the pandemic progresses, though the underlying correlation between individuals’ worry about health and their attitudes over the trade-offs has been remarkably constant. Our results suggest that citizens do not view civil liberties as sacred values; rather, they are willing to trade off civil liberties more or less readily, at least in the short-run, depending on their own circumstances and information.

Suggested Citation

Alsan, Marcella and Braghieri, Luca and Eichmeyer, Sarah and Kim, Minjeong Joyce and Stantcheva, Stefanie and Yang, David Y., Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis (October 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27972, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3714464

Marcella Alsan (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Luca Braghieri

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

Sarah Eichmeyer

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

Minjeong Joyce Kim

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/stantcheva/home

David Y. Yang

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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