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About the Talk

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world issued stay-at-home orders, which required that individuals stay at home unless they were engaging in certain activities. Often these orders would designate certain goods and services as “essential” and would permit individuals engaged in the production, delivery and purchase of those goods and services to leave their homes to do so. Implicit in these policies, of course, is the assumption that policymakers can know ex ante which goods and services are essential. As proved true while these stay-at-home orders were in effect, essentialness is necessarily subjective and depends on knowledge that is often dispersed, inarticulate, and changes over time. Policymakers, however, do not and often cannot have access to the local knowledge needed to determine ex ante which goods and services are essential, and they lack the feedback mechanisms they would need to adroitly adapt when circumstances change. This paper examines these knowledge problems associated with designating certain goods and services as “essential” when crafting and implementing stay-at-home orders.

About the Speaker:

Virgil Henry Storr is the Vice President of Academic and Student Programs at the Mercatus Center, an Associate Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics, George Mason University and the Don C. Lavoie Senior Fellow in the F.A. Hayek Program in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Mercatus Center, George Mason University. He holds a Ph. D. in Economics from George Mason University (Fairfax, Va.) and did his undergraduate work at Beloit College (Beloit, Wis.).

In Enterprising Slaves & Master Pirates, Virgil explores the Bahamas’ economic culture and argues that two ideal typical entrepreneurs dominate the economic life in the Bahamas: the enterprising slave (encouraging Bahamian businessmen to work hard, to be creative and to be productive) and the master pirate (demonstrating how success is more easily attained through cunning and deception). Understanding the Culture of Marketspublished by Routledge, explores how culture shapes economic activity and describes how social scientists (especially economists) should incorporate considerations of culture into their analysis. Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster (with Stefanie Haeffele and Laura E. Grube), published by Palgrave Macmillan,  argues that entrepreneurs promote community recovery after disasters by providing necessary goods and services, restoring and replacing disrupted social networks, and signaling that community rebound is likely and, in fact, underway. Do Markets Corrupt Our Morals? (with Ginny Choi), published by Palgrave Macmillan, invites us to reassess the claim that markets corrupt our morals.