The Electoral Consequences of Pandemic Failure Project
Some countries have performed extremely well in the face of covid. Their governments have effectively synthesized the relevant scientific information and take intelligent action to limit the spread, provide fiscal support to the economy, and distribute vaccines rapidly.
Others have performed very poorly. Their governments have ignored the evidence, issued policies that that actively encouraged disease spread, were unnecessarily authoritarian, and are continuing to retard the vaccination effort.
Part of the reason for the second group is that many politicians think their electoral prospects are not aligned with controlling the disease. They don’t want to annoy restaurant owners, or parents, or protesters, so they impose few or weak restrictions. As new evidence comes in they double-down on earlier policies, emphasizing hand washing over ventilation. They ignore the nature of exponential growth, pretending that the virus is just going to fade away.
Unfortunately, I think they are often correct in their judgement of the politics. Many governments remain quite popular with voters even after unnecessarily subjecting their populations to an extremely unpleasant year. This will discourage them from doing better next time.
So maybe there should be an EA project to support those leaders that did well in their next elections, and oppose those that did badly. We could come up with some objective criteria (e.g. age-adjusted deaths-per-million, vaccinations distributed by January 31st, rise in unemployment), use them to score leaders, and then publicize this to the media.
For example, in the recent US election, there could have been a press release along the lines:
The Pandemic Accountability Project rates President Trump’s reaction to the pandemic as BELOW AVERAGE. The US has seen significantly MORE DEATHS per million and HIGHER UNEMPLOYMENT than most countries. If the US had done as well as average, X lives and Y jobs would have been saved. If the US had done as well as New Zealand, X’ lives and Y’ jobs would have been saved. As a result The Pandemic Accountability Project recommends voting AGAINST President Trump.
Fortunately, good performance on the pandemic does not seem very closely linked to political ideology, which should help improve the credibility of the recommendations. For example, due to Israel’s exceptionally strong vaccine distribution policy, the project would likely end up endorsing him and his Likud party in the upcoming march elections. Because the project previously opposed Trump, this recommendation would have additional weight.