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How to balance lives and livelihoods during a pandemic

Adler, Matthew, Bradley, Richard ORCID: 0000-0003-2184-7844, Ferranna, Maddalena, Fleurbaey, Marc, Hammitt, James K., Turquier, Remi and Voorhoeve, Alex (2022) How to balance lives and livelihoods during a pandemic. In: Savulescu, J., (ed.) Pandemic Ethics. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. (In Press)

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The Covid-19 crisis and the policy responses to it have impacted many different areas of common concern including public health and the economy. This raises difficult questions about how to balance these concerns in making policy decisions. In this chapter, we review a number of tools that welfare economics offers for conceptualizing and studying such trade-offs. We argue that social welfare analysis is the most useful method for doing so. We show how concerns for the distributive and other effects of a policy on individual wellbeing can be evaluated using a Social Welfare Function (SWF) and survey some of the main features of such functions. As an illustration, we then use this approach to model and evaluate the implications for social welfare of the adoption of pandemic policies that vary in terms of the stringency of the controls that they impose on individual behaviour. Our model reveals how such evaluations are not only determined by empirical facts but may also depend on key judgments about the relative importance of the different determinants of individual wellbeing (health, income, longevity and so on) and about the extent to which special concern should be given to the worse off. In doing so, it illustrates how critical transparent modelling of these concerns is in developing responses to pandemics of this kind.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
JEL classification: D - Microeconomics > D1 - Household Behavior and Family Economics > D10 - General
I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I1 - Health > I18 - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2022 10:15
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2022 12:27

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