The Economic Policy of Wearing Mask In Consideration of Externalities and Turkey Example

In economics, an externality is a cost or benefit that affects a third party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit. Externalities might be both positive or negative. Positive externalities are benefits that are infeasible to charge to gain; negative externalities are costs that are infeasible to charge to avoid. In other words, in both negative and positive externalities, consumers don’t pay, and producers are not paid for costs or benefits. Planting trees is an example of a positive externality, while air pollution is an example of a negative externality.

Externalities stem from the selfishness of people, and it undermines the social benefits of the public. Despite the fact that people consider their own interests in their economic and social activities, they ignore the social benefits and costs of their activities.

If we adapt mask example to externalities, not wearing a mask and infect other people is an external cost while wearing a mask and prevent other people from infection is an external benefit. People suppose that other people wear mask, or they ignore the social benefits of wearing a mask because some people have low-risk perception. Thus, the consumption and production of masks remain below the social optimum level. At that point, the most rational political selection is to subsidize and mandate the use of masks. In other words, It is the best way to be given masks to free to the public by the government. Because the cost of wearing one mask and shortening the spread of pandemic one day is much less than the cost of causing one more COVID-19 case.

In Turkey, the government has started the distribution of masks freely through pharmacies and obliged to wear mask in public places in the early days of April. The graph below shows the positive impact of subsidizing wearing mask. After the third week of April, daily new cases start decreasing clearly. It definitely prevented the uncontrollable spread of cases. It needs to be lasted until shortening the marginal benefit of pandemic one day economically becomes equivalent to the marginal cost of wearing a mask.

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