Governing Life and the Economy
Exploring the Role of Trust in the Covid-19 Pandemic
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.