CORONA VIRUS a.k.a. COVID-19 - VALUES
2020 April 30

     Everybody's talking about Corona virus, otherwise known as COVID-19.

     VALUES AND TRADE-OFFS

     This is the tough one. Those who feel it's appropriate to have an opinion on a subject should have facts and a system of values to make a decision. Pick your favorite political football going from eugenics and communist spies to terrorism and global warming, the process is both simple and complex.

• What decision is being made? What choices are there?
• What are the consequences of each option?
• What system of values should we use to make the choice?

     I'll leave out qualifications as we're only looking for opinions and their justification, not authority for action. In the social medium of Facebook it seems a self-righteous image based on false information is as good as analysis by somebody knowledgeable who has thought about all sides of an issue. For the purpose of this essay, I'll point out I'm a mathematician, a scientist, and an engineer who has spent his career determining, evaluating, and recommending courses of action for business decisions. That doesn't prove I'm right, only that the issues I raise are likely valid ones, my estimates are reasonable, and I have a firm handle on how confident I am of those quantities.

(I took this from a Facebook post that says these things a lot better than I can.

Florence Arquitt posted this:

     "For the people crying for the country to remain shut down, answer these questions:

1) How many children should starve in order to make you feel safe?

2) How many families must go bankrupt in order to make you feel safe?

3) How many wives and children must be stuck at home with an abusive husband/father in order to make you feel safe?

4) How many business owners should lose everything they've worked for in order to make you feel safe?

5) How many people are you comfortable with committing suicide from hopelessness and financial ruin in order to make you feel safe?

6) How many people have to lose their jobs, their health insurance, their life savings, and most important precious time with their family and loved ones they will never get back to make you feel safe?

     Come up with an actual number, don't just dismiss the questions. Come up with the number of people that you think should surrender their lives for YOUR feelings and YOUR safety.

     Does it make you feel safer knowing that your unwarranted fear and panic are costing others their livelihoods and even their own lives? Each time you whine and complain about keeping the country shut down, remember what it's costing OTHER people for you to sit in your house watching TV, swallowing the panic narrative, and hoarding toilet paper.

     Also, remember this - if the TV news had never told you to be afraid of this virus, you wouldn't have. You'd have never given it a thought, you'd have gone about your life as usual along with everyone else. You'd likely have never known there was a virus at all, you'd have thought that this was just another type of Flu. So, remember that all your fear and panic exists because you were TOLD to live in fear and panic. Regardless of whether things reopen or not, you still have the choice to stay home and not go places if you feel that is what is best for you and your family

O/P Stuart Townsend

     While many of us, probably most of us, aren't happy with how our government reaction to eugenics, communist spies, terrorism, and global warming have turned out, I believe few have taken the time to evaluate the underlying decision process that led to those mistakes and I'm not going to do that here. Instead I would like to evaluate the lock-down decision on Corona virus, COVID-19, from the vantage point of the United States of America, its Constitution, and its founding, fundamental values.

     • What decision is being made? What choices are there? There are oodles of decision we have to make when confronted with a new and strange disease. It's like the movies:
Are we afraid to go outside ("Bird Box")?
Are we afraid of a raging epidemic ("Contageon")?
Are we afraid of a biological weapon of war ("Outbreak")?
Are we afraid of becoming zombies ("The Omega Man")?
Are we afraid of uncontrollable rage ("28 Days Later")?
Are we afraid of being trapped with very-sick people ("Quarantine")?
Are we afraid of a medieval-style plague ("Things to Come")?
Should we stay inside, should we avoid contact, should we seek medical attention, should we avoid certain foods?

     I'm going to make it a lot simpler by restricting our discussions of choice to government restrictions. Any of us has the choice to stay home and nothing about Corona virus suggests the risk to those staying home, washing hands, using disinfectant, and avoiding sex with strangers is particularly different whether other people do the same. (If the virus is as dry as described, then a mask is like a fishnet condom in terms of keeping the disease in or out.) Should the government tell us we can't assemble, we can't share our music, dance, and theater with each other, we can't share a bicycle ride or a run with our friends, or we can't sit in a restaurant and enjoy a well-served meal?

     • What are the consequences of each option? For every question of "Why can't we?" there's a dual question of "Why is it so bad?" Those on the left side of America's political aisle have a common refrain: "What's so terrible about working from home, watching Netflix, and using Skype to talk to family and friends? These are human lives we're talking about!"

     As I have said elsewhere, this has to be the scarcest mass tragedy everywhere. "You haven't seen anybody suffering with Corona virus!" they say. No, you're right, I haven't. If this disease claimed the numbers claimed, then the likelihood that I would have no friends suffering is small and the chance that nobody I trust knows anybody with COVID-19 is much smaller. So we have a disease that has kept its path of mass destruction surprisingly narrow and that is quite well stopped by closed doors and clean hands. The only Corona victims we hear about are famous people. The medical industry is highly encouraged to report higher rates, so just about any body leaving a hospital out the back door is marked as COVID-19 positive.

     Maybe Corona is just the next step after eugenics, an impending ice age, acid rain, mercury in the tuna fish, the ozone layer, global warming, and climate change. It's being used as an argument for gun control and socialized medicine, neither of which have anything to do with a virus and both of which run contrary to the principles of our country for very good reasons. (Some cynical skeptics suggest that a full-blown Corona-virus hoax is the logical encore after electing a president in 2008 and 2012 without ever publicly disclosing his name or background, a Goebbels Big Lie where the disease doesn't exist at all.)

     "See how easy it is to do without all these social services."

     What about those who provided those services I like to pay for? The first circle consists of service people like waiters, clerks, receptionists, secretaries, et cetera. These are people who live day to day signing the backs of their paycheques. The second circle is the small-business owners who typically are hanging on by a thin thread trying to get started, the people who sign the front of those same paycheques. While these people can no longer pay their rent, the third circle owns the infrastructure that makes these things possible, typically landlords, but also other infrastructure people. The fourth circle is made of hoteliers, airlines, and other parts of the travel and hospitality businesses. Without them, the fifth circle to go is those who serve and maintain those enterprises. Maybe the sixth circle is the factories that make the things we enjoy, including food and toilet paper. My final entry on the list is the musicians, dancers, singers, actors, performers, ushers, and others in the performing arts who make our lives such a pleasure, especially in difficult times.

     Those who estimate such things say 25 million people plunged into pitiful poverty. Their rents and bills overdue, unable to afford medical and dental care, some number of them will be driven to suicide and drug overdose while others will be beaten by abusive co-inhabitants, sometimes to their deaths. I'm told 25 thousand a month is a good estimate.

     So what are the consequences of lockdown? A few people won't die of a scarce disease, maybe hundreds, while 25 thousand a month die of poverty and 25 million lose their livelihood. They're forbidden to do the work they know how to do by government guys with guns.

     • What system of values should we use to make the choice? "Well, human life of course!" What about lives lost from lockdown? "No, no, they don't count. We can live without all those people anyway. We're worried about all the Corona-virus victims." Well, I have room in my heart for all who suffer.

     America is something special. It is the realization of almost six centuries (1215-1789) following a dream to build a country on values based on liberty. I quantify and qualify those values as human life, liberty, livelihood, property, and contract. The first, second, and fourth are explicitly stated in our founding documents. I believe the third and fifth have gone without saying and they should be said.

     In contrast, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics killed tens of millions of its own members, many by deliberate starvation. The German National Socialists killed thirteen million of their own in their death camps. The Cuban socialist communists under Fidel Castro and the Cambodian socialist regime under Pol Pot murdered their millions and the socialist Cultural Revolution in China also killed tens of millions of their own. There are some common themes of these governments that are contrary to our American founding principles.

     So by which of these values do we determine our choice of whether and how much to restrict Americans because of this virus?

     First, the threat must be clear and conclusive and catastrophic with no private-action recourse, a war on our own soil or an Ebola-scale epidemic clearly, conclusively threatening tens of millions of our people where just staying inside and washing our hands doesn't help. The burden of proof is on those who claim it's a threat at that level. Stalin, Hitler, Castro, Pol Pot, and Mao had no such burden of proof, but our government should be held to higher standards. That the perception of threat was so clearly partisan and so clearly timed after a failed usurpation and before an election makes it suspect. That representatives of the entertainment industry repeatedly said they supported having our economy descend to pre-Trump levels to elect a Democrat over Donald Trump makes it suspect. That the hospitals portrayed as overburdened are actually empty and the cases most of us see are famous people far away make it all the more suspect.

     Second, the individual must have no recourse of self protection. For Corona virus staying home, closing the door, washing hands, using disinfectant, and avoiding sex with strangers is a pretty-good recipe for staying safe without any government support.

     Third, our Constitutional values would have us consistently err on the side of not interfering, even with a net loss of life in the choice. Think of it this way: Diseases come and go, a new one each year, ebb and flow, tidal gravity, but we recover from each one and it doesn't make the next one worse. Government intervention is like cancer, the government doesn't shrink afterward, instead it keeps on growing.

     Even with all the exaggeration, the COVID-19 numbers are a bad flu year. We didn't get upset last year or the year before, we didn't get this upset about Zika, swine flu, SARS, bird flu, West Nile, or Asian flu, but this one is clearly political.

     So aggressive, forced lock-down could save hundreds of lives, maybe even thousands.

     But even if all the didn't-come-true horror-show predictions come true and the disease kills millions of Americans, our nation is not in peril from the disease. It's a bad year, like a drought or a tsunami or a bad hurricane season, or a flood. People get hurt and, yes, people even die.

     I estimate the death rate from sudden poverty for young people living paycheque to paycheque from depression, suicide, drug overdose, family abuse, and lack of medical and dental care to be 0.1% per month. I don't think my argument is terribly different if that number is three times too large or three times too small, so please bear with me even if you disagree with it. Somebody is going to die from the loss of jobs.

     25 million jobless, homeless, futureless, hopeless people with 50 thousand poverty-induced deaths through government compulsion is a horrible price to pay. I've learned a lot about some of my left-wing, progressive friends. How comfortable they are recommending this many deaths, just for their own incremental safety, tells more more about their attitudes that I really wanted to know.

   

     2020 May 6, postscript: I'm getting kickback from well-meaning people who believe in the lockdown that they disagree with me. They seem to think that my estimate of the death rate of COVID-19 is germane to this discussion. If it exists, if the gross overreporting isn't so much, then it may be deadlier than flu.

     So what? Are we going to trade lives for lives? Are we going to go out and kill innocent people to save other lives? We did that when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor or even when Hitler's threat was terrifying and real. But, first, these threats and deaths had already happened and, second, the threat was to our entire way of life, not just a few percent of our population getting sick and dying. ("I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed!") These lives were sacrificed for liberty, not just other lives, not just so several percent of us wouldn't get sick.

     The people who sacrificed people's lives for eugenics in the United States and, later, in Germany were similarly convinced of potential threat to something important. So what is an acceptable ratio of potential lives saved to lives sacrificed? I believe there is no ratio. When it's right there are ways to get people to volunteer, to make their own sacrifices for a good cause. I sure as hell don't believe COVID-19 was a good cause and I sure as hell don't believe using force to sacrifice the liberty of 300 million, the livelihood of 25 million, and the lives of 50 thousand is right.

     In the movie "Extreme Measures" Gene Hackman played Dr. Lawrence Myrick who experimented on and killed dozens of people without their permission in the name of medical gain. "If you could cure cancer by killing one person, wouldn't you?" No, I wouldn't. Not as a doctor, but, more important, not as an American based on American values. We don't trade lives like that. This is something we just don't do!

     People who trade lives are doing evil, no matter how good their intentions. Kill four people to save fifty soon becomes killing fifty people to save four. Now it's killing 25 thousand people a month and ruining the lives of 25 million people to save other lives, maybe tens of thousands, maybe thousands, more likely hundreds. More importantly, the lives they're trying to save are potential, future, predicted lives. There's always a scary story about what will happen if these innocent people are allowed to live. The people supporting involuntary lock-downs are those who killed people in Russia and Germany and Cuba and China, the same morality for the same nobility of passion. We always wondered who those people are and now we're finding out. If you understand that, then good and fine. If you don't understand that, then understand there are people who do understand it, the damage and pain are real, and the innocent deaths really are your fault. (It's the same mindset as the green-future of the global-warming movement. It involves cutting off the food supply to 2000 million people whose nightly dinner now comes from cheap coal. They're busy re-writing old data to make their case and the suffering they propose is real and terrible.)

     2020 May 8, another postscript: This one is for the conspiracy freaks. I saw a job application from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for quarantine managers in twenty states starting 2019 November and ending 2020 May. Why would they have such a job? Why for a time period specifically ending now? It suggests the lock-down was already planned well before 2019 November! I thought something was fishy when they were forceably locking down in 2020 February when reported deaths were small. Now we have evidence of lock-down plans six months earlier, maybe even before the disease had any victims at all. (This was while impeachment hearings were failing, when Democratic spokespeople, especially in the entertainment medium, were calling for some kind of economic failure to drive the election away from Donald Trump.)

     It's not just nicety and fluff. I want what these people have spent their lives selling me. I want the warm experience of service, of help, and of the performing arts I love so much. I want those who have treated me so well and brought me so much joy over the years once again to be joyful themselves. I want them to be secure in their own lives, liberty, and livelihood as they were just a few months ago.

    

    

    

ETHICS

     (under construction)

    

Ring-a-round the rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down.

    

     Here is some early stuff I wrote and some other stuff on Corona virus.

    

    

    

    

If you like what you read here (Hah!), then here are my other American-issues essays.

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