We’re a few weeks into flattening the curve. We’re already debating whether the cost is too great.
Sports are cancelled. Malls are closed. The hospitality and travel sectors have fallen off a cliff. Yes, this does feel apocalyptic.
But, relax, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is here to save us. His plan? Ask seniors if they’re willing to risk death to stave off the economic upheaval we’re facing right now. Apparently, he is. He told the FOX News Channel’s Tucker Carlson so just yesterday.
And President Trump wants the US economy “opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
They’re both over 70 and aren’t ‘living in fear’ of the coronavirus. They’re ready to get back to work.
Hold on. Let’s think about this.
Open America for Business? Money vs. Lives
Following Patrick’s logic, we’d reopen all those non-essential businesses and eliminate all this social distancing. So we can get back to spending, talk about bull markets, and feel better about our 401(k) balances.
It’s worth risking the lives of those most vulnerable to coronavirus, right?
I mean, if we kill off all of those who are most vulnerable, those are the people who aren’t contributing much to America’s great economic engine anyway. So, it follows that it’s a win-win to just go back to work and take our chances.
The economy will boom back. And coronavirus will run its course that much sooner.
That’s what the argument is anyway: let's flatten the curve until it costs too much money.
That’s not making America great.
That’s just chasing money, Ebenezer Scrooge-style, ignoring the immense regret to follow later.
So, A Higher Shorter-Term Curve Is Better?
In a word, no. Social distancing doesn’t make coronavirus go away — it makes the crisis last longer, but it allows the hospitals and medical personnel to cope. That’s better for the medical sector, but it means saving lives too. Flattening the curve could reduce America’s death rate from over 2 million to something in the thousands. Is that worth stalling America’s economy longer? It depends on your priorities, what kind of country we want to be, and how we want to be remembered in history.
We see where President Trump and the Texas Lt. Governor fall. In the end, though, it’s a decision that each one of us faces, whether we’re debating policy and legislation or we’re slowing the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, or not.
Coronavirus Will Cost Us Money, But Maybe Not Our Humanity
This crisis will cost us money. According to mid-March projections, US GDP will sink some 8 percent to 24 (!) percent during Q2 2020. These numbers are moving targets, obviously, and depend heavily on what we do, how coronavirus develops in the US, and our policy decisions towards it.
The fact is that coronavirus is here. We’ve got community spread. As policymakers debate the balance between humanitarianism and capitalism, maybe we can focus less on how to get back to making money, and more on how to make ourselves a better nation during this pause.
Through the coronavirus crisis, we might see that:
- Working from home can save us commuting time — time that can be used to save the environment, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, spend more time with family, be more productive, etc.
- We can stop drowning our miseries by buying things, just for the sake of buying and consuming them.
- We can stop over-programming our kids and families.
- We can eat healthier food, and stop eating so much fast-food junk.
- We can keep checking in on the elderly and sick, even after the pandemic is no longer weighing on our consciences.
- We can wash our hands and watch our health.
- We can spend more time outdoors and with our families.
- We can look for more ways to be selfless.
- We can see that we are one world, one human race
- We can recognize that we’re not here forever so we make our time count.
Flattening the curve, saving lives, and preventing suffering make sense. It’s the right thing to do. It’s what makes America great, not chasing money. And, in the long run, we’ll be a better country for it. We might even try to learn from the crisis and the social distancing, and the shutdown of all these distractions so that we can be better people — people who aren’t addicted to chasing money, distractions, and account balances.
We all suddenly have more time to think about that.