Originally posted 10 April 20
Here is an excerpt:
Crisis Ethics in a COVID-19 Context
Of course, SARS-Cov-2 and the rise of the COVID-19 threat have sharpened the issues and heightened the stakes.
At the moment, we do have a global near-consensus on many things: Stay at home. Conduct your religious gatherings online. Do what you can to protect your family's health and that of others.
But the consensus quickly breaks down. How long can we truly afford to do this, especially given evidence that the virus returns once stricter measures are relaxed? How do we judge the misery caused by the virus against other impending miseries? Will an entire generation be economically shattered?
Here, a number of values grind against one another.
For a good number of idealists, sentimentalists and technocrats, it's inconceivable that society could do anything other than to shutter for as long as necessary to prevent further coronavirus spread. Anything else reveals utter contempt for the elderly and the vulnerable. They argue that lockdowns must be draconian and extended, because those countries that initially had success containing the virus witnessed new outbreaks as soon as they loosened restrictions.
Utilitarians, pushing back, raise concerns about how lockdowns have unintended consequences that grow more dangerous over time. Idealists and technocrats tend to dismiss them as Fox News-addicted ogres who are all too eager to dig a grave for Grandma in order to protect their precious stock portfolios.
But at some point, painful realities do have to be reckoned with. As Liz Alderman wrote in the New York Times recently, European officials are walking a high wire in their efforts to provide massive relief efforts. "European leaders are wary of relaunching the economy before the epidemic is proved to be under control," Alderman wrote. "The tsunami of fiscal support by France and its neighbors — over €2 trillion in spending and loan guarantees combined — can be sustained only a few months, economists say."
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