Governing Life and the Economy

Exploring the Role of Trust in the Covid-19 Pandemic


  • Joelle M. Abi-Rached Sciences Po, Paris, France
  • Ishac Diwan Ecole Normale Supérieure and Paris Sciences et Lettres, France



When comparing both GDP loss and mortality across countries, it appears that countries that have managed to save more lives during the Covid-19 pandemic have also managed to save their economies better. What accounts for these stark differences in country performances? In this article, we argue that a salient feature of economic and health performance is the degree of trust populations have in their governments. We set up a heuristic analytical framework that models this relation, under particular assumptions about what drives government and individual behavior, in order to better understand the mechanisms that may be at work. We identify three key roles that trust in government may play in enforcing social distancing policies, conveying credible information for individual decision-making, and shaping government attitudes towards risk. We argue that these implications are consistent with the empirical evidence. We also discuss the relevance of other forms of trust, namely, interpersonal trust and trust in science.

Author Biographies

Joelle M. Abi-Rached, Sciences Po, Paris, France

Joelle M. Abi-Rached is associate researcher at the Médialab, Sciences Po, Paris. She holds an MD from the American University of Beirut, an MSc in philosophy and public policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a PhD in history of science from Harvard University. She has a number of publications on the social, political, historical, and economic dimensions of healthcare and medicine. Her recent book is ‘Asfuriyyeh: A History of Madness, Modernity, and War in the Middle East (MIT Press, 2020).

Ishac Diwan, Ecole Normale Supérieure and Paris Sciences et Lettres, France

Ishac Diwan is professor of economics at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and Paris Sciences et Lettres where he holds the Chair on the Socio-Economy of the Arab World. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. He was the World Bank director in East and then West Africa during 2002–2011 and has held recent teaching positions at Columbia University and Harvard University. He has published widely on international finance, development strategies, and the political economy of the Middle East. His recent book—co-authored with Adeel Malik and Izak Atiyas—is Crony Capitalism in the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2019).




How to Cite

Abi-Rached, J. M., & Diwan, I. (2021). Governing Life and the Economy: Exploring the Role of Trust in the Covid-19 Pandemic. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 14(1), 71–88.