Munich Personal RePEc Archive

A dichotomy between democracy and personal freedom on the spread of COVID-19

Ang, Joshua Ping and Guanlin, Gao and Sparks, Andrew (2022): A dichotomy between democracy and personal freedom on the spread of COVID-19. Forthcoming in: International Journal of Social Economics

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Purpose The authors analyze the effects of political freedom and personal freedom on the spread of COVID-19 in a cross-country study. The authors also investigate how income inequality, urbanization and previous experience with a similar respiratory epidemic/pandemic, such as SARS and MERS, affect the spread of COVID-19.

Design/methodology/approach The authors employ data from 102 countries to examine the relationship of countries' economic and sociopolitical factors, such as political freedom and personal freedom and their COVID-19 infection cases per million population at 120 days, 150 days and 180 days after the reported 10th infection case. The authors also include the log term of real GDP per capita to control for counties' economic development and regional dummies to control for regional-specific effects.

Findings Results of this study show that personal freedom, rather than democracy, has a significant positive effect on countries' COVID-19 infection cases. On the contrary, democracy has a negative impact on the infection rate. The authors also find that socioeconomic factors such as higher income inequality and urbanization rate adversely affect the COVID-19 infection cases. A larger older population is associated with fewer infection cases, holding everything else equal. Previous experiences with the coronavirus crisis affect countries only at the 120 days mark. Real GDP per capita has no significant effect.

Originality/value The main contribution of this paper is to jointly explore personal freedom, which implies a social framework with more emphasis on self-value and self-realization and political freedom, that is, democracy. The authors show that it is personal freedom, rather than democracy, that contributes to higher COVID-19 infection cases. Democracy, on the other hand, reduces the number of infection cases.

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