Sunday, April 26, 2020

libertarian responses to COVID

 I’m curious what the ideal Libertarian reaction would be to this situation? And had there been a big or little L in White House at time of this, could they have withstood the enormous public and political pressure for lockdowns and financial restitution. I don’t think Trump was an advocate for either and he can take incoming pretty well. Thoughts?
  • Eric Schansberg There is no single answer to this for libertarians or Libertarians-- anymore than there is on immigration, abortion, or a handful of other issues. It depends on assumptions-- and unfortunately, with COVID, our (wildly different) assumptions can only be lightly held at this point.

    The opening principle, from econ, would be "negative externalities"-- when your actions have a significant (negative) impact on others. One can find a role for govt to intervene in such cases, because voluntary behavior alone may lead to inequities and inefficiencies. (See: pollution by firms as the most notable example.) In such cases-- at least in theory / on paper-- various types of govt intervention may be helpful. So, that takes us to the possibilities among lockdown policies. But the benefits of such should be weighed against their costs-- most notably, the econ consequences.

    As for the (more) macro, what should the govt do? A lower-case L approach might include local/state efforts to help, including an extension or tweak of existing programs like UI. Even here, one would worry about whether the activism was being done well vs. causing more damage. The federal govt might relax taxes and regs (ideally, eliminating the latter permanently in most cases). But I can't imagine going much beyond that.

    One thing that's new to me: econs often talk about inefficient trade restrictions that are for the national interest-- e.g., defense items like tanks, guns, steel. Even if we're not good at those, one can make a political argument that we sacrifice some econ to be careful. One can now add medical supplies to that list.


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