Researchers find that the combination of sound expert explanation and legal sanctions is the best way to encourage acts of public good like social distancing
Paying your taxes or practicing social distancing may not be things that any of us particularly enjoy, but in economics terminology, both of these actions contribute to the public good. Right now, actions that can help stop the spread of COVID-19 are contributions to better society, and according to a collaborative research study from the University of Maryland (UMD), the University of Michigan, and Arizona State University, a combination of sound expert advice and authoritative enforcement is the best way to encourage compliance. In a study published in the Journal of Public Economics, researchers found that authority needs to provide both expert explanation and the threat of enforcement in order to achieve results with public good policies, not just one or the other. These results have implications for the policy and communication tactics taken to curb COVID-19 by Governor Hogan and other leaders during this time of crisis.
“We did not motivate this paper by a pandemic; it was more general in the sense of public goods,” explains Neslihan Uler, assistant professor in Agricultural & Resource Economics at UMD. “But I see a direct connection between the paper and what’s happening right now. While the implications in the paper are related to tax evasion, which is a perfect fit as an example of an everyday policy for this research, it applies to much more. It applies to most public good provisions, including health.”