When the New York Post reported that the “stay at home” orders could result in death for opioid addicts, it became clear to me that people who want to keep the economy closed do not care about those who will die due to isolation. They do not care about people who become depressed and commit suicide. They are willing to sacrifice those people in order to feel safe in their wealth.
But it actually gets worse. There is severe racism in support for the lockdowns. The United Nations warned that the economic depression brought on by these policies could result in tens of millions dying from starvation in developing nations. Lockdown supporters do not care about that, though, because these are black people. They would allow black people do die by the millions so they can feel safe from COVID-19.
Now, are my my opening paragraphs fair? Is what I wrote above true? Absolutely not. It is an unfair assessment, and it is a false attack on people’s character. My point is to take the “you do not care if people die” argument used against people opposed to the “stay at home” orders and closing businesses. My point is that there are costs to public policy when dealing with a global pandemic.
Let’s not pretend this is about lives vs. the stock market. This is lives vs. lives. And this is in no way a simple problem. Do not oversimplify this. There was and is wisdom in temporary lockdowns. But this policy does have severe costs, as it would have had severe costs to not lock down at all.
Some of the anti-lockdown arguments need to be addressed as well.
No, it is not house arrest to quarantine “healthy” people. One of the realities about this disease is that 80% of cases either show no symptoms or are very mild. This is why it is very easy for someone to pass it to a vulnerable person without ever knowing he had it. By limiting movement of everyone, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 while we prepare for eventual second, third and fourth waves… and more after that.
One commentator I respect said the lockdowns were “not about saving lives” and were instead an operation for politicians to cover themselves and avoid blame. Can we please have some charity? We knew nothing about this virus just five months ago, and data has been rapidly changing. The “stay at home” orders and closing “non-essential” businesses were implemented to get a handle on this new virus. Have the powers been abused by petty tyrants? Yes, but most of our civil authorities only want to save lives.
Above all else, let’s have some charity for those who disagree with us. No one wants to see people die – of the novel coronavirus, or of suicide or addiction. No one wants to see people economically devastated. No one wants to see a famine that kills millions. No one wants to sacrifice the old and the infirm by the hundreds of thousands, or cause people to have permanent lung damage. These are very difficult policy decisions and no one should pretend they have all the answers.