It was perhaps inevitable that we would enter the “would a little death be such a bad thing” phase of the coronavirus pandemic, but it sure feels like it’s happening very quickly!
Here was Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Goldman Sachs and (presumably) a golfing buddy of Satan’s, just doing some Sunday night brainstorming:
This point of view is shared by, among other people, the president of the United States, who has spent the last 14 or so hours feverishly signaling that he is getting tired of telling people he wants to help keep them safe and wants to tell them to start going back to work pretty soon.
The White House has also been saying similar things to reporters, both publicly and privately.
There’s more and more of this bubbling up.
This kind of “debate” will surely ramp up as the hardships of isolation and social distancing go on. More and more people will start to wonder whether all of this misery is really worth it when most people who get coronavirus will be alright in the end.
Now, on the face of it, this seems like just some sensible talk about balancing the need to keep the economy going with the need to not have many many many people dying. But what these people are really saying is that we should be prepared to tolerate just a smidge of mass death in order to keep people at work. That is what it means when you say you are prepared to “let those with a lower risk” just do their thing again. You are saying that the prospect of those people getting coronavirus and infecting other people is worth the price if it means Goldman Sachs can function at full speed again. Scientists have already pondered this theory. The result would be death on a huge scale.
Aside from the fact that letting potentially millions of people die when they don’t have to is, you know, extremely immoral; and that there’s powerful evidence that easing restrictions too soon is a really bad idea; and that the idea that such a devil’s bargain would actually save the economy is based on some very dubious assumptions, it pays to note the dichotomy that’s being set up here: Either you destroy jobs forever and the economy is toast, or you keep the restrictions that are needed to save the most lives in place.
There is, of course, another way. The government could pay peoples’ salaries so they didn’t have to lose their jobs, and their employers didn’t have to face financial ruin. It could suspend rents so that people were secure in their homes. It could, in short, keep the economy afloat, and protect people so that they can participate in the economy when we get through this. (That’s before you get to the other things it should be doing, like letting tons of people out of jail.)
This is not outlandish stuff. A string of European countries are doing things like this already. Heaven forbid we do the same thing here, rather than muse aloud about how much death we are prepared to accept in order for rich people’s lives to go on.