A Perfect Storm
By Amy Willis
It’s been almost two years since COVID became a part of our lives- personally and politically. In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes back Don Boudreaux to talk about the pandemic and our policy response to it. Boudreaux argues that governments overreacted badly to the threat of COVID, using the crisis a an excuse for social control.
Both Roberts and Boudreaux recognize the seriousness of the virus, but this still leaves lots of room for discussion. Let’s hear what you think. Use the prompts below to continue the conversation online in the Comments, or to start your own conversation offline.
1- Roberts begins by acknowledging that he and Boudreaux have slightly different takes, with Boudreaux insisting that the political reaction to COVID was greatly overdone. What is Boudreaux’s case for this, and in what sense did COVID provide a “perfect” storm for the exercise of social control? To what extent do you agree with Boudreaux?
2- What role did the media play in prompting the sort of overreaction Boudreaux cites? Did the media scare us too much? Are we really as bad at misunderstanding risk as Roberts and Boudreaux insist? Might it be possible for the media to play a role in making us better at assessing risk, and if so, how?
3- What does Boudreaux suggest would have been a better policy response to the virus? Why didn’t we have a “proportional” response?
4- Roberts turns the conversation to the costs of responses. Why might public choice theory predict government officials were older? Who do Roberts and Boudreaux believe have borne the highest cost throughout the pandemic? Who do you think has, and why?
5- The conversation concludes with a discussion of Ronald Coase and externalities. What does Boudreaux mean when he says, “It takes two to externalize,” and what important and oft-neglected point is he trying to make about externalities? How might a better understanding of externalities prompted better policy in the wake of COVID?