TRIBUNE. “Why the mask must become free for all”

These three economists: Olivier Bos; Nicolas Frémeaux, lecturer in economics at the University Panthéon-Assas; Paul Maarek, professor of economics at Panthéon-Assas University, challenge the government on the inequalities caused by the compulsory wearing of the mask and its non-free admission.

“The State cannot do everything, the State will not do everything, to each his responsibilities. ” As restrictive as they are, these few words alone sum up the government’s position on the distribution of masks to the greatest number, now mandatory in all public places, and even for some cities outside under penalty of a fine. Apart from the professional framework, companies and administrations having the duty to offer them to their employees, it is therefore up to everyone to bear the cost.

This non-free use of masks is of course not without reinforcing financial inequalities, which have continued to increase in recent years, and are likely to increase with the health crisis. For some populations, including the most modest households or students, this is a significant investment that adds to the potential daily budget difficulties. In a day marked by six hours of lessons and three hours of study in a university library, to which we must add asides, a student keeps at his expense a minimum of three daily surgical masks. Should we therefore propose a system of vouchers based on the tax rate or some other measure of wealth? This would be forgetting that the first objective in these times of health crisis is the protection of everyone, and that for this everyone must have access to a mask without geographical or time constraints, regardless of the inequalities of resources. , delivery men … The curfew spells the end of student jobs

Free does not discourage use

We must not only make sure that everyone is wearing a mask, but also that it is protective, in other words that it is changed at regular intervals, thrown away or washed. However, the individual costs vary according to the populations concerned; they are not only monetary, but as diverse as the purchasing action to be taken. Recent research shows that access to free sanitary products does not discourage their use (Pascaline Dupas, 2014). In other words, the people targeted by such a policy do not value the good any less, even if it is given.

The health of a nation, as a collective entity, is a public good to which everyone must have access without limit or congestion, and which any welfare state must be careful to preserve. Those and those, deprived of a mask of sufficient quality, represent as many dangers for themselves if not much more for the rest of the population. This is not without jeopardizing our individual and collective health, which a simple systematic distribution in strategic places could easily remedy.

Masks distributed in Paris. (PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP

It is understood that the provision of such a public good is not without giving rise to certain expenditure by the State. This is also one of the main arguments used against free access to masks for the entire population. No offense, to the normative dimension is added financial benefits which could prove to be much greater than the conceded costs. The protection induced by such a policy would very probably be manifested by a decrease in contamination and hospitalizations, which is again as many medical costs and indirect costs contained by a more moderate circulation of the virus. In addition, the distribution of masks, as vast as it is, seems financially derisory in view of the economic but also human consequences of this health crisis.

This refusal to make the masks accessible free of charge to as many people as possible is consistent with one of the economic markers of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency, the individual incentive in view of the effort supported, for a proportionate withdrawal of the state action. This will of the government, as insatiable as it is, could well have blinded it to the ineffectiveness of such a policy in terms of collective health, just as much as its aggregate cost borne by the whole of society. In a pandemic period, time is a variable that no one can control, and strategic decisions must be adapted as quickly as possible. “

Olivier Bos; Nicolas Frémeaux, lecturer in economics at the University Panthéon-Assas; Paul Maarek, professor of economics at Panthéon-Assas University.

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