Opinion: Health vs. economy debate will come, but it’s a false choice

Article content continued

Nevertheless, when the rate of increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths starts to slow down or even reverse, there will be calls for restrictions to be lifted. The danger is that we may have just survived the first wave, and the possibility of a second wave intensifies if we move too quickly to reopen society. Conversely, we cannot indefinitely place harsh restrictions on society. At a certain point, some, if not all, are going to need to be lifted.

Regardless of when this debate occurs in a serious way, there are a number of key political science concepts that are going to come into play: authority and legitimacy. Authority is a form of power in which people obey commands not because they have been rationally or emotionally persuaded, or because they fear the consequences of disobedience, but simply because they respect the source of the command. The one who issues the command is accepted as having a right to do so, and those who receive the command accept that they have an obligation to obey. Authority is focused in the one who commands, but legitimacy is the feeling of respect for authority that exists in those who obey — it is what makes authority possible. In other words, people have to trust the source of the command. This is especially critical in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.