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Is a Mandate Simply a Suggestion?

Now she tells us. 

Martha Olney, an emeritus economics professor from UC Berkeley, tweeted that the American Economics Association lost about $900,000 on its recent meeting in New Orleans. Phil Magness, replying to her, claimed that it was due to the AEA’s “absurd pandering to Covidian zealots.”

I’m sure that was a factor; I don’t know how important a factor. But Olney’s response was shocking.

She wrote:

Huh? I’m guessing that means you’re not here. Like all mask mandates, it’s more a suggestion than anything else. As is true everywhere. Take care of others, or do your own thing. Your choice.

Wow! I knew of a few people, Phil being one, who said that they wouldn’t go to the AEA meetings because of the mask mandate. But now she says that a mandate doesn’t mean you have to; no, it means that you may if you want to.

Phil replied by pointing to the actual AEA statement that preceded the meeting. There was no hint that it was a “suggestion.” Here’s the statement:


All registrants will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to have received at least one booster to attend the meeting. Those who are unable to be vaccinated or boosted for health or religious reasons should contact [email protected] for information about an exemption. High-quality masks (i.e., KN-95 or better) will be required in all indoor conference spaces. These requirements are planned for the well-being of all participants. Participants are also encouraged to test for COVID-19 before traveling to the meeting.

Notice the distinction between the rules about vaccinations and masks and the suggestion about being tested. The former are requirements, aka mandates. The latter is a suggestion. I doubt that more than 20% of potential attendees assumed that when the AEA said there was a masking requirement, it didn’t really mean it.

But Professor Olney doesn’t give up. She responds:

I suppose things are different depending on where we live but even in highly mask wearing SF Bay Area, a “mandate” is not enforced. That was my assumption re ASSA and also is what I’ve observed here.

I doubt that more than 20% of potential attendees, when they read the rules, assumed that the AEA didn’t really mean it.



Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime Editor