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Optimal Lockdown and Social Welfare

Author

Listed:
  • Pierre Pestieau
  • Grégory Ponthiere

Abstract

This paper reexamines the design of the optimal lockdown strategy by paying attention to its robustness to the postulated social welfare criterion. We first characterize optimal lockdown under utilitarianism, and we show that this social criterion can, under some conditions, imply a COVID-19 variant of Parfit’s (1984) Repugnant Conclusion: for any non-maximal lockdown saving lives at the cost of reducing average utility at a given period, there exists always a stricter lockdown, which further reduces average utility, but leads to a larger aggregate welfare. The optimal lock-down under utilitarianism is also shown to deteriorate the situation of the worst-off, against Hammond Equity. In order to do justice to Hammond Equity, we characterize optimal lockdown under the ex post egalitarian criterion, which gives absolute priority to the worst-o¤ ex post. Under general conditions, the ex post egalitarian optimum involves a zero lockdown. Varying between zero and its maximal level, the optimal lockdown policy is not robust to the postulated ethical criterion.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre Pestieau & Grégory Ponthiere, 2020. "Optimal Lockdown and Social Welfare," CESifo Working Paper Series 8694, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8694
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Blackorby,Charles & Bossert,Walter & Donaldson,David J., 2005. "Population Issues in Social Choice Theory, Welfare Economics, and Ethics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521532587, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. de la Croix, David & Doepke, Matthias, 2021. "A soul’s view of the optimal population problem," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 98-108.
    2. Roland Pongou & Guy Tchuente & Jean-Baptiste Tondji, 2023. "Optimal interventions in networks during a pandemic," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 36(2), pages 847-883, April.
    3. Davide Bosco & Luca Portoghese, 2024. "Complementarity, Congestion and Information Design in Epidemics with Strategic Social Behaviour," DEM Working Papers Series 218, University of Pavia, Department of Economics and Management.
    4. Yu Pang, 2022. "A theory of fiscal policy response to an epidemic," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(9), pages 2050-2071, September.
    5. Charles Shaw & Silvio Vanadia, 2022. "Utilitarianism on the front lines: COVID-19, public ethics, and the "hidden assumption" problem," Papers 2205.01957, arXiv.org.
    6. Keiichi Morimoto & Shiba Suzuki, 2022. "Ambiguity in a pandemic recession, asset prices, and lockdown policy," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 24(5), pages 1039-1070, October.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Covid-19; lockdown; optimal policy; social welfare;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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