Politics & Policy

It’s Fine to Talk about How This Crisis Ends

People descend down the Bethesda Metro train station escalator at commuter rush hour as Governor Larry Hogan ordered the shutdown of all bars and restaurnts in the state due to the coronavirus in Bethesda, Md., March 16, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)
Doctors alone won’t be able to provide the answers.

If I followed all my doctor’s instructions to the letter, life would be excruciating. It would be tantamount to having Michael Bloomberg make my life choices, which is to say my life wouldn’t be worth living. Human beings have never been as risk-averse as experts want them to be. We instinctively calculate the costs and benefits of engaging in activities that put our health at risk every day.

The coronavirus crisis, in fact, has been one of the few times in my life I’ve allowed medical experts to completely dictate my actions. I’m writing this piece bunkered down in my home office, staying inside as much as possible, employing a rigorous hand-washing regime, and keeping far away from my now-menacing neighbors when I walk the dog. Like many Americans, I do this not only for my own well-being but for the well-being of those who are at greater risk.

I’m one of the lucky ones: I have a job and can work from home. Millions of others don’t share that luxury. Many of them are calculating the costs of self-quarantining as it relates to their livelihood, their businesses, and their futures — and those are completely sane, unimpeachable considerations.

Yet, I’ve noticed pundits and politicians trying to shut down difficult discussions of the tradeoffs associated with managing the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout by demanding that everyone shut up and listen to “doctors” and “scientists,” as if no one else’s opinion was useful.

Let’s set aside the fact that many liberals have spent the past decade degrading the gravity of “science,” a word now most often used by pundits to make wild, Malthusian claims about climate change or argue that there are more than two genders. Even if they hadn’t, science is just one aspect of any equation: We should listen to scientists, but not only to scientists.

If all scientists agreed on how the United States should move forward in combating the current pandemic, which they don’t, that still wouldn’t be the end of the story. Virologists and epidemiologists concern themselves with the spread of disease and the physiological health of human beings, which is naturally of paramount importance right now. But economists concern themselves with whether those who survive the disease will have houses to live in after it’s all over, which matters quite a bit, too, as do pundits’ concerns about the violation of civil liberties and law-enforcement officials’ concerns about the possibility of rising criminality.

Science is most meaningful when we consider it together with morality, economic prosperity, human thriving, and thousands of other factors that make our lives bearable. Those considerations don’t dissipate simply because a new virus shows up. Mankind has dealt with pandemics for thousands of years.

Moreover, Americans deserve a full discussion of what a glide path to normalcy might look like. President Trump says he’d like to see the economy “raring” to go in two weeks. That seems highly optimistic. Former Fed chair Ben Bernanke says that “If not too much damage [is] done to [our] workforce and businesses during [this] shutdown, we could see a fairly quick rebound. Much closer to a major snowstorm” than the Great Depression, which would be tremendously encouraging if there weren’t so many unknowns still in play. One thing that’s certain is that we need to start talking about the endgame here, and about the point at which the cure might become worse than the disease.

No one can say with any certitude how this plays out yet, but asking these questions isn’t kooky, out of bounds, or unpatriotic; it’s natural. The longer this goes on, the more the public will want answers. And doctors alone won’t be able to provide them.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

Most Popular

World

How to Make China Pay

One of the big questions facing the international community today is how to hold China legally and politically accountable for all its dishonesty and harm to people around the world. According to reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed to the White House that China has deliberately understated the ... Read More
World

How to Make China Pay

One of the big questions facing the international community today is how to hold China legally and politically accountable for all its dishonesty and harm to people around the world. According to reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed to the White House that China has deliberately understated the ... Read More

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More
World

WHO Failed

Since its inception 72 years ago almost to the day, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has been credited with the eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of other devastating illnesses, including leprosy and river blindness. This record of success makes the current corruption of the organization ... Read More
World

WHO Failed

Since its inception 72 years ago almost to the day, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has been credited with the eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of other devastating illnesses, including leprosy and river blindness. This record of success makes the current corruption of the organization ... Read More

The Eeyore Syndrome

In A. A. Milne's classic Winne-the-Pooh children’s tales, Eeyore, the old gray donkey, is perennially pessimistic and gloomy. He always expects the worst to happen. Milne understood that Eeyore’s outbursts of depression could at first be salutatory but then become monotonous. The outlook of the pessimist ... Read More

The Eeyore Syndrome

In A. A. Milne's classic Winne-the-Pooh children’s tales, Eeyore, the old gray donkey, is perennially pessimistic and gloomy. He always expects the worst to happen. Milne understood that Eeyore’s outbursts of depression could at first be salutatory but then become monotonous. The outlook of the pessimist ... Read More