The winds are changing!
Two weeks ago, I thought that flattening the curve was the best strategy we had against COVID-19. I’ve changed my mind.
Now, I think that the best strategy is that of the UK’s (the original one they had before they changed it).
The economic toll that our attempts to prevent COVID-19 from wrecking havoc on us have wrecked havoc on the economy, which has its own deleterious effects.
How many people will commit suicide because they were laid off from their job + friends were not able to stay by their side to prevent them from taking any extra steps? These are deaths too, and they’re a type of COVID-19 fatality.
How many people will be forced out of their homes, to either live with friends for a couple weeks or on the streets, both of which will likely spread the disease? You need money in order to survive, and this quarantine will push out sooo many people from the job market!
And of course, there’s the amoral Cost Benefit Analysis which applies to all other activities of life. We have more people die from collisions than we do from COVID-19, and yet we don’t ban driving, as an interlocutor of mine on twitter put forward. We don’t ban driving because the costs of doing so would be too great.
Lastly, there’s the serious worry of the unjust curtailment of civil liberties.
Most serious people I’ve listened to regarding the COVID-19 response have been at pains to say that 1) we should be listening to experts, and then 2) what their expert level is. And this is entirely reasonable – you don’t want the guys at Tim Hortons discussing politics on Sunday morning to be crafting policy (no offence intended).
However, the risk of such a pro-expert policy is that it risks curtailing democracy. Especially in times like these, the ruling or expert class may think it better to ‘pause’ democracy and just rule for a while until this storm comes over. My main fear is not that they will not eventually resume democracy.
My fear is that they will start acting as if their values and tradeoff choices are more legitimate than those of the guys at Tim Hortons discussing politics on Sunday morning. This is wrong. In Canada, and in democracies in general, the values of the common man or woman are worth no less than the most educated bureaucrat.
What follows then is the following:
The government must endeavour to persuade, to the best of their ability, to as great of the population as possible, what it is that they are doing, and why they are doing it. This means comparing their plan of action with other possible ones, and then defending the one they chose. For a good example, see this speech by the Dutch PM.
Secondly, decisions should be deliberated in Parliament by our representatives, whose ears we, as citizens, squeeze onto most closely. The reason why there should be deliberation is because the government must be kept in check, or at least must be kept in service to, the people. And by service I do not mean ‘to act in the best interests of the people.’ The film Wall-E does a spectacular job of showing how this ‘legitimacy automaton’ leads to the snatching away of power from the people. I mean instead that government choices should seek to reflect that which the people believe. So in two weeks from now when everyone becomes sick of the imposed quarantine, I do not think that government should go on to enforce the quarantine. If Parliament and the legislative branch is suspended because of this public emergency, then at the bare minimum, a new a-political coalition government should be formed. At the bare minimum.
Lastly, if the ruling class decides that we as citizens are foolish for walking to our own deaths, then they must convince us of this too, as those who were anti-brexit should have done, rather than assuming they were correct and then getting upset at people who disagreed. This means that views contrary to those of the government which disagrees with the government should not be censored. This will do nothing except to raise distrust in the gvmt and discredit them and cause the censored article to spread even more (the Streisand Effect).
Anyways, enough with political theory.
I think that we should let, as the UK government originally intended to, COVID-19 wash over our population at the right time while isolating only those who are most threatened by COVID-19. If we all socially isolate too early, then what’ll happen is the curve will peak and overwhelm the hospital systems when the restrictions are lifted a month from now. The current solution to this is to never remove the restrictions. But this is politically untenable, economically untenable, and mentally untenable.
By letting COVID-19 wash over the population and isolating those most threatened, the disease would not be able to spread as successfully as before everyone was infected and therefore viral. This will also flatten the curve because the disease will travel really slowly, just as our current mandatory quarantining aims for. The BIG difference between the two however is that the economy doesn’t have to stop.
So. Pay attention to what the gvmt does. And keep talking about COVID-19.