Lockdown Fatigue: Pandemic from the Perspective of Nudge Theory

Some governments have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing policies based on ideas from behavioural psychology, especially ‘nudge theory’. But the pandemic has highlighted two important failings of ‘nudging’ – its libertarian opposition to state intervention; and its lack of any theory of psychological interiority.

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Lockdown v. Liberty

All around the world, countries have been imposing lockdowns to try to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, COVID-19. These lockdowns have severely restricted people’s movement and interaction with family members; they have had a drastic effect on social lives and religious worship; they have directly caused the loss of many jobs and they have plunged the world into a severe economic depression that will take a long time to recover from. Do we accept these restrictions because we do not believe in freedom anymore? Or do we believe that these restrictions do not really disrespect the essence of our freedom?

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Sonderopfer für die Volksgesundheit

Zieht der Staat zur Gefahrenabwehr jemanden heran, der die Gefahr nicht selbst verursacht, so mag dies „zur Beförderung des gemeinschaftlichen Wohls“ ausnahmsweise rechtmäßig sein. Immerhin werden noch heute ganze Dörfer für den Braunkohletagebau enteignet. Anders als mit dem auch vom Ehtikrat herangezogenen Konzept der Solidarität in einer Gemeinschaft lässt sich das wirklich nicht erklären. Selbst ausnahmsweise können solche Maßnahmen jedenfalls nur unter der Bedingung rechtmäßig sein, dass den Betroffenen dafür eine angemessene Entschädigung gezahlt wird.

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How to protect the Vulnerable?

In the Corona crisis, balancing between containment measures and the protection of fundamental rights becomes even more pressing with respect to vulnerable groups, especially in view of proposals aiming at restricting curfews to high-risk populations. Over-emphasizing their need for protection bears the risk of disregarding their rights and autonomy and one-sidedly imposing paternalistic measures in order to urge a solution and alleviate economic consequences.

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Lockdown Bubbles through Layers of Law, Discretion and Nudges – New Zealand

New Zealand’s governmental response to Covid-19 has been, so far, dramatic and legally curious. As a South Pacific island nation, Covid-19 was late to infiltrate New Zealand, allowing the government time to shape its response in the light of experiences elsewhere. At the first sign of community transmission, the government moved to lockdown the country – shutting the border, keeping people in their household ‘bubbles’ and closing businesses other than those deemed essential. To effect the lockdown, the government relied on some ordinary legal powers and a handful of reserve emergency powers, supplemented by strong messaging from a charismatic prime minister. While providing a stopgap solution for the sudden move, the current legal framework is bit soft and fragile in places. It seems likely the government will move to sharpen and fortify the legal basis for the lockdown and put in place a more bespoke and enduring solution.

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Hungary’s Orbánistan: A Complete Arsenal of Emergency Powers

On 23 March 1933, an act was adopted in Nazi Germany in response to the “crisis” of the Reichstag fire to enable Hitler to issue decrees independently of the Reichstag and the presidency. Article 48 of the constitution of the Weimar Republic made this act possible. Eighty-seven years later, on 23 March 2020, the so-called ‘Enabling Act’ was put before the Hungarian Parliament. This was drafted under emergency constitutional provisions in Articles 48-54.

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