Lives versus ‘the economy’

How should governments react to the pandemic? Should they do everything they can to save lives, or should they be concerned about the economic consequences of potentially life-saving policies? On one side, some people say that it is not possible to put a price on life: money is no object when there are people to save, and therefore any amount of economic damage is tolerable, if we can reduce the death toll. On the other side, some people say that the cure may be worse than the disease: the recession likely to be caused by social distancing policies is also a bad thing, and at some additional deaths can be a price worth paying to protect the economy.

I investigate these issues, coming to the conclusion that economic considerations matter, but not in the way they are often to, in an article published on my colleague Hannah McHugh’s excellent new website ‘What to do about now?’

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