Magazine April 20, 2020, Issue

How Much Is a Life Worth? 

Cyclists ride through a nearly empty Times Square in Manhattan during the coronavirus outbreak, March 31, 2020. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)
Hard answers to a cold question

As I write these words, a debate is raging over whether the country is “overreacting” to the COVID-19 pandemic by shutting down too much economic activity. I hope that by the time you read this, everyone has agreed that we were, because the virus has proved to be far milder than many experts predicted. But however things turn out — and especially if the pandemic is still in full swing for you — it is worth thinking carefully about how governments should make such trade-offs without the benefit of hindsight.

It is sometimes said that life is priceless. But of course

Something to Consider

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