OECD countries' politicians follow each other

August 12, 2020

The more democratic a country is, the greater the probability that its politicians decide in the same way as in neighbouring countries, without further analysis. This is according a research group that has studied political decision-making during the beginning of the Corona crisis.

Karl Wennberg and Abiel Sebhatu, professor and post-doctoral student, respectively, at the Institute for Analytical Sociology at Linköping University, together with colleagues in Uppsala and Gothenburg, have studied political decision-making in the OECD countries during the Corona crisis. Their results have now been published in the respected journal PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The starting point for the research is that the majority of OECD countries introduced the same or similar restrictions (no large gatherings, school closures, travel restrictions, curfews and lockdowns) during a few weeks in March, although the circumstances in the countries themselves were very different.

"We found that the decisions were not based on, or had a very weak correlation to, standard epidemiological indicators such as number of cases, number of deaths, ICU capacity etc. More important has been how many neighbouring countries have already implemented measures", says Karl Wennberg.

The phenomenon whereby political measures spread without further analysis is called diffusion, and it usually appears when decisions are to be made in a highly uncertain environment.

It's true that during the pandemic, political decisions were made amidst considerable uncertainty. However the researchers conclude that timing, i.e. when measures are implemented, is important. Waiting too long leads to uncontrolled spread and overloaded healthcare, while acting too early or in the same way as others has disadvantages such as higher social and economic costs for mental ill-health and low economic activity, as well as the risk of a second wave when restrictions are eased. Also, restrictions are reliant on the population's willingness, ability and tenacity to follow them.

"One could expect that each country would conduct a detailed review of its own situation, and make decisions based on that. Considering how different the countries are, the phase of the pandemic they were in during the spring, their healthcare capacity, demographics, and how far the pandemic had advanced in each country, the homogeneity of the decision-making is striking", says Karl Wennberg.

The researchers also discuss the fact that the politicians are subject to internal pressure; they do not want to be blamed for being passive or behind the curve. They want to show decisiveness.

The research group also expresses concern about how the decision-making affects democracy. They have studied the degree of democracy in the country, in relation to the timing, i.e., when the restrictions were implemented. They conclude that the higher the level of democracy in a country, the slower the closure of schools and workplaces - all other things being equal. In democratic countries, however, it is more probable that they copy each other.

"Our analysis also shows us that legislation can limit people's freedom and rights. In May 2020, more than 100 countries had introduced variations of legislation which negatively affect democratic processes. The V-Dem Institute in Gothenburg estimates that up to 82 of the countries face considerable or medium risk of continued damage to democracy", says Karl Wennberg.
-end-
The research group hopes that its insights into the large degree of diffusion in political decision-making will be an important piece of the puzzle in further studies of the pandemic's political consequences.

'Explaining the homogeneous diffusion of Covid-19 policies among heterogenous countries', Abiel Sebhatu, Karl Wennberg, Stefan Arora-Jonsson, Staffan I Lindberg, PNAS 2020, doi 10.1073/pnas.2010625117

Contact: Karl Wennberg, karl.wennberg@liu.se, +46 705 105366

https://www.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010625117

Linköping University

Related Pandemic Articles from Brightsurf:

Areas where the next pandemic could emerge are revealed
An international team of human- and animal health experts has incorporated environmental, social and economic considerations -- including air transit centrality - to identify key areas at risk of leading to the next pandemic.

Narcissists love being pandemic 'essential workers'
There's one group of essential workers who especially enjoy being called a ''hero'' during the COVID-19 pandemic: narcissists.

COVID-19: Air quality influences the pandemic
An interdisciplinary team from the University of Geneva and the ETH Z├╝rich spin-off Meteodat investigated possible interactions between acutely elevated levels of fine particulate matter and the virulence of the coronavirus disease.

People who purchased firearms during pandemic more likely to be suicidal
People who purchase a firearm during the pandemic are more likely to be suicidal than other firearm owners, according to a Rutgers study.

Measles outbreaks likely in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
Major measles outbreaks will likely occur during 2021 as an unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new academic article.

The COVID-19 pandemic: How US universities responded
A new George Mason University study found that the majority of university announcements occurred on the same day as the World Health Organization's pandemic declaration.

Researchers find evidence of pandemic fatigue
A new study from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology shows that the behavioral responses to COVID-19 differed by age.

Excessive alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic
The full impact of COVID-19 on alcohol use is not yet known, but rates have been rising during the first few months of the pandemic.

How fear encourages physical distancing during pandemic
Despite guidelines plastered on the walls and floors of grocery and retail stores encouraging customers to maintain six-feet of physical distance during the pandemic, many do not.

COVID-19 pandemic and $16 trillion virus
This Viewpoint aggregates mortality, morbidity, mental health conditions, and direct economic losses to estimate the total cost of the pandemic in the US on the optimistic assumption that it will be substantially contained by the fall of 2021.

Read More: Pandemic News and Pandemic Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.