People also stocked up with disinfectants. (I don’t remember whether authorities mentioned these, or it was just common sense.) This seemed more tricky, because making disinfectants at home… well, you couldburn some strong alcohol, you wouldn’t even have to worry about toxicity if you do not intend to drink it;
This one they handled better, I’m 99% sure that the government started to hand out instructions on how to make disinfectants at home the minute people started trying doing it on their own… I guess it fits my hunch of “prevent flashy, showy bad consequences” as a decisional process, since people self procuring x-degree chemical burns would make the news fast.
Which again makes me think that if there is a risk of panic and shortage, you might want it to happen sooner rather than later, so that the market has enough time to adapt before the worst happens.
I think I disagree on this one. The market starts producing as soon as it suspects there might be panic and shortage, I don’t think that shops running out are actually needed for industries getting the message. But once shortages start to happen, people go crazy and start stockpiling more, so you get a random family owning more disinfectant than what they’ll consume in the next three years and a lot of families without. Then the behaviour spreads more and more, people worry what might run out next and so on.
As a government, you could even contribute to the shortage, by buying tons of stuff… and later redistributing it to the places of greatest need: sell it to hospitals for the original price, thus shielding them from shortage and price hikes.
I guess any politician would say “no” just by the thought of the backlash in consensus from the population. The party who’s playing opposition can jump on the “soviet requisitions” bandwagons and pitch the government as an adversary of the people, fighting them on the product they absolutely need to survive.
Even leaving political games aside… I think it would have backfired. The governments back then had the difficult task of convincing people to concede them more authority on their lives and follow restrictions, “sanity dictatorship” has become a rallying cry for protests already. Stuff like this would have made people revolt from day one.
The market starts producing as soon as it suspects there might be panic and shortage, I don’t think that shops running out are actually needed for industries getting the message.
There is also uncertainty, and the producers don’t want to oversupply. Starting the panic “collapses” the uncertainty. If some families are going to buy 3 years worth of disinfectants, I want the market to know this, not as a possibility, but as a fact. So that the result is that some families have 3 years worth of disinfectant, and the remaining families have enough.
I agree with the political backlash. Doing the right thing on object level may be a mistake on political level. When you do something, you become responsible for everything that happens, and in situation of pandemic, all outcomes are bad, so the optimal political strategy is probably to stay in background until the situation gets really bad, and then come and save the day. One does not get political points for preventing problems. (After Slovakia successfully defeated covid during spring, many people concluded that it was just a hoax and that all measures were unnecessary. This probably contributed to the reluctance of government to do anything when the numbers started growing exponentially in autumn.)