Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis – , Sarah Eichmeyer, Minjeong Joyce Kim, Stefanie Stantcheva, David Y. Yang NBER Working Paper No. 27972 Issued in October 2020. NBER Program(s): Health Economics, Public Economics, Political Economy
“The respect for and protection of civil liberties are one of the fundamental roles of the state, and many consider civil liberties as sacred and “nontradable.” Using cross-country representative surveys that cover 15 countries and over 370,000 respondents, we study whether and the extent to which citizens are willing to trade off civil liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the largest crises in recent history. We find four main results. First, many around the world reveal a clear willingness to trade off civil liberties for improved public health conditions. Second, consistent across countries, exposure to health risks is associated with citizens’ greater willingness to trade off civil liberties, though individuals who are more economically disadvantaged are less willing to do so. Third, attitudes concerning such trade-offs are elastic to information. Fourth, we document a gradual decline and then plateau in citizens’ overall willingness to sacrifice rights and freedom as the pandemic progresses, though the underlying correlation between individuals’ worry about health and their attitudes over the trade-offs has been remarkably constant. Our results suggest that citizens do not view civil liberties as sacred values; rather, they are willing to trade off civil liberties more or less readily, at least in the short-run, depending on their own circumstances and information.”
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