Home >News >World >Can autocracy help in the covid-19 war?

China’s success in taming covid-19 has given traction to the idea that autocratic regimes may be able to handle such pandemics better. However, a study in VoxEU suggests that while such regimes have indeed imposed stricter lockdowns, they have been less effective in reducing public movement.

Researchers from Oxford used the university’s covid-19 government response tracker to measure the strictness of lockdown policies in various countries. To estimate adherence, they used Google’s covid-19 mobility reports. The researchers used the latest democracy index of Freedom House to classify regimes.

Based on the analysis, the authors argue that when democracies employed the same restrictions as autocratic regimes, they experienced steeper declines in public movement.

China’s strict lockdown has received the most media attention, but other East Asian countries have arguably mounted a more effective response to covid-19, they say.

These results hold even after taking into account distinctive factors such as state capacity, GDP per capita and experience with past epidemics. Besides, the lack of transparency in autocratic regimes has proved to be an indisputable drawback in fighting the pandemic, the authors argue.

They also say that even cultural values of societies are likely to have played a role in determining how effective the mobility restrictions were. For instance, individualistic societies such as the US, Sweden, and the UK found collective action as a response to a pandemic more difficult, they say.

This is because people in individualistic societies tend to pursue their own interests rather than the collective good. Societies that emphasize group loyalty, conformity and obedience towards superiors find it easier to take collective action, the study says.

Collectivistic countries have mounted a more coordinated response to covid-19 in terms of reducing movement and travel, the authors added.

Also read: Covid-19 and the future of democracy

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