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Pandemic Ethics

Pandemic Ethics

By Joshua Preiss
A discussion of the defining ethical challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, featuring world-renowned experts in ethics, public health, law, economics, public policy, and beyond. Hosted by Joshua Preiss, Director of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at Minnesota State University, Mankato and the author of Just Work for All: The American Dream in the 21st Century (Routledge 2021). Visit for more information on recent and upcoming episodes.
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Risk, Ethics, and Public Policy During the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Pandemic Ethics

Should Vaccination Be Mandatory?
Even as vaccines become more widely available there is serious concern that, due to persistent reluctance to get vaccinated, protection through herd immunity will be unattainable. This episode considers the ethical and legal principles involved in decisions to make vaccination mandatory. What would mandatory vaccination entail in the case of Covid? Should the same principles that apply to governments also apply to employers, universities, airlines, and other businesses and associations? Are there relevant differences between vaccinations for Covid and other infectious diseases, such as measles or polio? My guest is Roland Pierik, Associate Professor of Legal Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and a member of the Dutch Health Council.
May 04, 2021
Modeling the Covid-19 Pandemic
In this episode we consider the challenges of modeling the Covid-19 pandemic and the failure to collect data that enables more effective modeling. How is the admonishment to "trust the science" different in the case of Covid than the human impact on climate change? Did governmental decisions to impose lockdowns violate a duty to base those decisions on sufficiently robust scientific evidence? My guest is Eric Winsberg, Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Florida.
April 05, 2021
Responsibility for Debt and Crisis
Anahí Wiedenbrüg (Oxford) and I discuss responsibility for debt and crisis. Debt has risen dramatically as a result of the pandemic, with many countries likely to face sovereign debt crises in the years to come, even if they spend comparatively little keep their citizens safe, housed, and fed during the crisis. What principles ought to govern the repayment of such debt? What responsibilities do governments, private creditors, and non-governmental agents such as the International Monetary Fund have to ensure that the servicing of debt doesn't reproduce injustice and bring about further economic and humanitarian crises?
March 22, 2021
Covid, Poverty, and Intellectual Property
Economist Sanjay Reddy (New School for Social Research) and I discuss the impact of the pandemic on global poverty, the role that intellectual property plays in vaccine development and distribution, and the ethical and economic case for a "People's Vaccine." How might suspending existing understandings of intellectual property in the case of vaccines for Covid-19 - while compensating pharmaceutical companies for research and development - enable a more efficient distribution of the vaccine?
February 24, 2021
Covid-19 and the Future of Work
My guest is Daron Acemoglu, Institute Professor of Economics at MIT and the author (with James Robinson) of Why Nations Fail: Origins of Power, Poverty, and Prosperity and The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty. We discuss the impact of the pandemic on the welfare, power, and status of workers. In what ways is the pandemic accelerating trends toward greater automation and digitization in the economy, widening economic inequality and the increasing the capital share of the fruits of production? How does government policy actually encourage the adoption of labor-replacing technology? Why might institutional reforms be necessary to encourage worker-friendly innovation and create a free and inclusive post-pandemic economy?
February 17, 2021
Vaccine Ethics
In this episode we consider essential questions for the production and distribution of vaccines. What is the ethics of ongoing vaccine trials, including the unblinding of those who received a placebo, now that vaccines have been licensed for emergency use? Are current methods of vaccine distribution just and efficient? What can and should be done differently? My guest is Danielle Wenner, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University.
February 08, 2021
Childcare in the Time of Covid
In this episode Candice Deal-Bartell and I discuss role of childcare and early childhood education in American society and the challenges of providing that care during the pandemic. Do providers have the resources necessary to perform their essential work? How can public policy better reflect the importance of this work and the value of workers who perform it, both during and after the Covid-19 crisis? Deal-Bartell is Founder and Director of Cultivate Mankato Child Care Center.
February 01, 2021
Nursing in a Pandemic
In this episode we discuss the challenges nurses face during the pandemic. Are their values, concerns, and expertise taken seriously? What practices or policies can make it easier (or harder) for nurses to continue to perform their essential work effectively? My guest is Beth Hawkes, acute care nurse, nursing development specialist, and author of numerous books and articles on nursing.
January 18, 2021
Business Ethics in a Pandemic
In this episode Abraham Singer (Loyola University Chicago Quinlan School of Business) and I discuss business ethics and the Covid-19 pandemic. What is the responsibility of business actors - from pharmaceutical companies, landlords, and insurers to restaurant and shop owners - during the current economic and public health crisis? How should business managers respond to market, justice, and governmental failures?
January 10, 2021
Care in Crisis
Joan Tronto (Minnesota) and I discuss the importance or care work and care workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, including nurses, home health workers, child care providers, teachers, workers in food production and service, and nursing home staff. Do our politics and institutions reflect that importance? How do President-elect Biden's plans for care measure up? What policies could help countries best meet the care needs of their citizens and ensure that those who labor to meet those essential needs are not comparatively poor, vulnerable, and powerless?
January 04, 2021
Race, Justice, and the Pandemic
In this episode, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and I discuss the racial wealth divide in the United States and the role historical injustice plays in determining vulnerability during the pandemic. With the crisis threatening to exacerbate economic and health disparities, what policies can ensure a more just and secure post-Covid society? Hosted by Joshua Preiss, Director of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at Minnesota State University, Mankato and the author of Just Work for All: The American Dream in the 21st Century (Routledge 2020).
December 16, 2020
Who Gets the Vaccine First?
With recent announcements of successful vaccine trials, perhaps the central ethical question of the pandemic is how to fairly and equitably distribute vaccines as they become available. This episode considers the principles that ought to govern the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, and the ways that existing models and plans fail to show equal moral concern for those most vulnerable to harm. My guest is Florencia Luna, Director of Bioethics at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) in Argentina.
December 10, 2020
Property Law and the Pandemic
My guest is Katharina Pistor, the Edwin B. Parker Professor of Comparative Law at Columbia University and the author of Code of Capital. We discuss the role of property law in generating wealth, inequality and (in)security, privileging the interests and assets of powerful economic actors in times of crisis. In addition, we consider debt relief and other policies that may be essential to a rapid and inclusive post-Covid economic recovery. For more information, including complementary readings, visit
December 02, 2020
Risk, Ethics, and Public Policy During the Covid-19 Pandemic.
In the inaugural episode of the Pandemic Ethics podcast, Jonathan Wolff (Oxford) and I discuss the ways in which ethics can inform public policy, the principles that ought to govern policy during the pandemic, and what we owe to those who take on additional risk to provide essential services during the pandemic. For more information, including complementary readings, visit
November 22, 2020