Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis

114 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2020 Last revised: 22 Sep 2021

See all articles by Marcella Alsan

Marcella Alsan

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Luca Braghieri

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Sarah Eichmeyer

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Minjeong Joyce Kim

Harvard University

Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University - Department of Economics

David Y. Yang

Harvard University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2020

Abstract

Major crises --- from terrorist attacks to outbreaks of disease --- bring the trade-off between individual civil liberties and national security or well-being into sharp relief. In this paper, we study to what extent individual preferences for protecting rights and civil liberties are elastic to health insecurity. We design and conduct representative surveys involving approximately 550,000 responses across 15 countries, including China and the United States, during many months of the COVID-19 pandemic, from March 2020 until January 2021. We document significant heterogeneity across countries and demographic groups in willingness to sacrifice rights for public welfare. Citizens disadvantaged by income, education, or race are less willing to sacrifice rights than their more advantaged peers in every country, as are those with prior experience in communist regimes. Leveraging naturally-occurring variation as well as experimental approaches, we estimate that a one standard deviation increase in health security concerns increases willingness to sacrifice civil liberties by approximately 72%-92% of the difference between the average Chinese and U.S. citizen. Stated preferences correlate with observed behavior including demand for tracing apps, donations, and petitions.

Keywords: cross-country surveys, Experiment, liberties, Public health, redistribution

Suggested Citation

Alsan, Marcella and Braghieri, Luca and Eichmeyer, Sarah and Kim, Minjeong Joyce and Stantcheva, Stefanie and Yang, David Y., Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis (October 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP15410, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3723634

Marcella Alsan (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Luca Braghieri

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

Sarah Eichmeyer

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

Minjeong Joyce Kim

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/stantcheva/home

David Y. Yang

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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