12 April 2020

Who Counts The Deaths From Recession?

As of this writing, there are 551,081 cases of COVID-19 (aka CCPVirus) infection in the United States, and there have been 21,668 deaths. Worldwide, there have been 1,837,785 infections, resulting in 113,312 deaths. To prevent further deaths, we have been told extreme measures over and above rudimentary "social distancing" are necessary, including the wholesale closures of businesses, the destruction of millions of jobs, the contraction of the world economy on a massive scale.

We are rigorously counting every death from the CCPVirus, taking care not to miss any. Yet who is counting the deaths from the economic chaos being unleashed on the world?

Recessions Cost Lives

There can be no doubt that economic turmoil and job loss play a role in increased mortality and death. Even a cursory view of mortality statistics show this:
If the Great Recession produced 10,000 suicides, it is not improbable that the current economic turmoil--by all metrics far more severe than the Great Recession--will easily result in an order of magnitude more such tragedies. We cannot say at this point how many suicides will happen as a result of the current economic chaos, because we do not yet know exactly how bad this unfolding "Greater Depression" will be. We can say the economic contraction is shaping up to be the worst in living memory, and we can expect that despair and desperation will drive many to take their own lives--such is the tragedy of human frailty in uncertain times.

Update: With 69,300 additional suicides for each 1% uptick in unemployment, a rise in unemployment, if unemployment rises to "only" 20% as a result of the lockdowns--an increase of 17 percentage points--the resultant increase in suicides would be a staggering 1,178,100. That would be 54 times as many deaths from suicide as have died in the US from CCPVirus through mid-April.

If cancer mortality rises in the current crisis to just the same degree as during the Great Recession, by that metric alone the lockdowns are producing more death than the disease itself. If it rises higher because of greater economic distress, the deaths from the lockdowns will be that much greater.

If unemployment in the United States "only" rises to 20% as a result of the lockdowns, the net increase in opioid deaths will be 28,797, or 7,129 more deaths than from CCPVirus in the United States through April 12.

Contrary to the sentiments expressed by many progressive media and legacy media outlets, addressing economic concerns is not about trading profits for lives, but about saving lives, as the lockdown strategies are certain to produce several times more deaths than the disease possibly could.

Who is counting these deaths? Who is even contemplating these deaths?


Hunger Games

Nor should we ignore the privation that follows closely on the heels of any economic downturn. People without money cannot buy food. Hunger and poverty always go hand in hand; they always have, and they always will.

Even David Beasley, head of the UN's World Food Program, acknowledges the precarious state of global food security as the world comes to terms with the global economy having been crashed by the CCPVirus response:
Beasley warned that analysis from the World Food Programme, the U.N.’s food-assistance branch, shows that because of the coronavirus, "an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020. That’s a total of 265 million people."
130 million people facing starvation just by the end of 2020 alone is a staggering figure. Put another way, that's over one third of the total US population.

Imagine one third of the United States starving--potentially starving to death. Now realize that when that many people are starving, the number that will actually starve to death will almost certainly be in the millions.

130 million is a worldwide figure. Lockdown and economic destruction have been the worldwide response to the CCPVirus. Yet we only have to look at the miles-long lines at food banks across the United States to realize that the US will have its share of this 130 million, and of the deaths that will arise from that 130 million.

Every one of these deaths from hunger will be directly attributable to the choices made by governments everywhere to deliberately disrupt nations' economies. Every one of these deaths must be counted as avoidable and preventable, for none of these choices were ever inevitable.

Who is counting these deaths? Who is even contemplating these deaths?

Recession's Ripple Effect

Much like the pandemic itself, the ongoing Greater Depression will have ripple effects and reverberations for some time to come. Africa, a continent relatively lightly touched by the CCPVirus, is facing the very real threat of near total economic collapse across several sub-Saharan countries, which in turn will catalyze more of the political violence already rampant in that region.

Africa is not alone. Europe is heading into extremely rough waters, as the persistent "north-south" divide within the EU is preventing the union from reaching substantive agreement on a continental economic rescue package, to the point that Italy has openly speculated on the "collapse of the EU". As it is, the ongoing rise of Euroscepticism has gotten a tremendous surge of energy from the mis-steps by Brussels on the pandemic. Left unchecked, not only could several national governments fall, but the whole of the Brussels bureaucracy now stands imperiled. What happens in a "post-EU" Europe is anyone's guess.

Nor should one overlook China. Despite its best efforts to propagandize the issue away, the blunt unalterable reality of the pandemic is that it originated in Wuhan, and that it affected the Chinese people first. China's initial cover-up of the outbreak resulted in thousands of Chinese deaths. The Chinese Communist Party is using just about every disinformation trick it has to alter the prevailing narrative, but ultimately are losing the information war.

Will this mark the end of the CCP? That is not impossible, although it is also possible China will revert to Maoist-era repression, which could be just as traumatic to China.

How much death will these ripples and reverberations bring? There is no way to calculate the number with certainty, but it requires no great leap of faith to conclude that number will be far greater than the current death toll from the CCPVirus.

Who is counting these deaths? Who is even contemplating these deaths?

All Lives Matter, And So Do All Deaths

There is, admittedly, a certain emotive logic to the argument that we must work to contain the virus in order to save lives. The whole of western medicine is geared around curing disease and preventing deaths from disease. 

Yet is just as valid to say that civilization itself is also spurred on by the motivation of preventing death and extending life. Even by progressive standards, economic activity is an essential factor in extending and improving life. If life is the objective, then death remains a problem, regardless of its cause. Just as all life matter, as all lives matter, so too must all deaths. It is irrational on its face to imply in even the slightest regard that death from CCPVirus is somehow more meaningful than death from economic tribulation or political chaos.

President Trump was stating a simple truth when he tweeted out last month that the cure for the virus cannot be worse than the problem itself.

What he should have tweeted is that, even then, the cure was already worse than the disease.

As I have commented previously, it is insane to destroy society in an effort to save society. Yet that is exactly what we seem committed to doing.

There Is Only One Choice: Life

The progressive polemic about choosing between profits and lives is a failed argument. It fails not merely because of the factual flaws already described. It also fails because the choice itself is false, and abhorrently so. It is monstrous by any measure to trade life for anything. Life is not a thing to be bartered, it is not a token in a zero-sum game of negotiation.

The decisions people must make now, individually and collectively, both in business and in government, must always take as their singular objective preserving and enhancing life. We must never have but that single goal.

Similarly, we must not ignore the deaths brought on by inattention while we focus on containing the pandemic and treating its victims. We must not fail to count the deaths that may come from rising poverty and violence in the world. There is no death less tragic than another. There is no life less precious than another.

We must not trade profits for lives. We must not choose some lives over other lives. Such choices will be our deserved damnation.

For any civilized society, there can be only one choice: Life.

21 April 2020: Updated to include quantified impact of unemployment on suicide rates
23 April 2020: Updated to include UN admission that economic collapse will threaten food security.
5 May 2020: Updated to include additional data quantifying mortality risks from unemployment.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts -- let me know if you agree or disagree!