Pandemics and Liberty

Widespread hardships caused by Covid-19 and its responses generate many important but complex questions. What measures and actions taken did help slow or stop the spread of the virus? How much was governmental influence necessary? How much governmental impact was harmful or ineffective? Were lockdowns necessary? Did masks help prevent disease spread? Why did some states (and countries) fare better in addressing the pandemic than others?

Questions about the US response to Covid-19 also invite broader inquiry into the role of public policy during pandemics. What should be the goal of public policy during pandemics? Prevent overwhelming hospitals? Minimizing cases? Minimizing death? What roles should government and markets play in these policies? How much should the government be involved and what specifically should it do? Can individuals and citizens effectively organize and prevent the spread of disease? These are all trade-off questions that policymakers and public discourse often ignore.

Unfortunately, analysis and policy debate is often overshadowed and politicized during public health emergencies. Costs vs. benefits of policy recommendations become left vs. right talking points. This edited volume hopes to provide something different: a careful assessment of the role of policy and liberty during pandemics based on theory, history, and policy analysis. Each chapter contributes to our understanding of this vital relationship in one of these aspects.

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