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Public Choice ; : 1-23, 2022 Oct 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2094724

ABSTRACT

In The Pox of Liberty, Werner Troesken details the tradeoff between liberal institutions and communicable disease. According to Troesken, individual freedom presents a danger to the public health in the face of infectious disease, while constitutional constraints restrict the government's ability to implement effective policy. Contra Troesken, I argue that decision-makers, amidst a crisis of contagion, neglect intertemporal tradeoffs, thereby discounting long run costs while favoring short run policies. These policies, once implemented, are difficult to reverse due to the path dependent nature of political institutions. Irreversible and self-reinforcing growth in political institutions established to enhance health can have an unintended negative impact on health during future crises, where political agents must operate in a more cumbersome and error-prone institutional environment. Using events from the history of public health in the U.S. as support for my theory, I conclude that Troesken's alleged tradeoff ought to be met with greater skepticism.

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