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October 17, 2014

Travel Bans

I’ve been watching the CDC head as well as politicians hem and haw about what is wrong with travel bans. So I thought that I would lay out the case against them. This is not to suggest that I am against or for travel bans. I am only describing one side of the argument.

Let us suppose that a travel ban is imposed on the few west African countries that are experiencing ebola outbreaks. What would people at risk in those countries do? They would scatter to other countries. This would probably spread the ebola problem. So instead of dealing with the ebola problem in a relatively limited geographical area, the problem is compounded by the increased geographical spread.

People at risk would scatter, because they would hope to land in a developed country if they have ebola. Their hope is that they would receive more sophisticated treatment in the developed world.

Can you depend on their passports to determine where they have been? This is doubtful. Bribery is rampant. I assume that you can buy a “clean” passport in almost any country . . . maybe even in the US, but I digress.

The point is that travel bans can make things worse in one dimension and may be difficult to enforce as well.

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