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Economic lessons for COVID‐19 pandemic policies



W. Kip Viscusi Professor of Law, Economics, and Management, Vanderbilt Law School, Nashville TN

COVID‐19 is a novel coronavirus. Nevertheless, the policy issues raised by this pandemic are not entirely novel but are well situated in economists’ domain. The fundamental policy task is to think about this pandemic in a sensible way. How should we deal with the health risks posed by the pandemic? Is it feasible to monetize the health consequences of these risks? The economic and societal ramifications of dealing with these risks are not costless and have generated starkly divergent viewpoints. Should health concerns always be paramount and be the sole driver of policy decisions? Or should health consequences be disregarded, treating the pandemic as a hoax or, at most, as being comparable to routine flu illnesses? More rationally, how can we seek to achieve a meaningful, efficient balance between the health risks and the costs to reduce them? This article provides guidance for addressing COVID‐19 as well as lessons that are applicable to future pandemics. The advent of a major novel health crisis need not paralyze analysis or lead us to abandon the guiding principle of fostering economically efficient control of risks.

Government agencies have […]

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