≡ Menu

Evidence Against the ‘Negative Externality’ Justification for the Draconian Covid Restrictions

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


You report on people moving during Covid in droves from states (such as California) that relied heavily on lockdowns, school closures, and other draconian restrictions to states (such as Florida) that were much more laissez faire (“The Great Pandemic Migration,” Dec. 29). This pattern of migration is powerful evidence against the applicability of the chief ‘economic’ argument used to justify these draconian policies.

That argument starts by asserting that these restrictive policies are the best means of preventing the “negative externality” of some people inflicting harm on innocent third parties. The argument then further asserts that, while each individual suffers a real cost of being inconvenienced by these policies, nearly everyone judges the resulting benefits to be worth this cost. Thus it is concluded that these restrictive policies serve the public interest.

But the migration that occurred since Covid strongly suggests that a significant number of people do not judge the benefits of draconian restrictions to be worth the costs – a fact that drains the “negative externality” justification for these restrictions of its validity.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030