Thursday, March 26, 2020

Notes from the Undergound - Day 2

Another day in the basement bunker trying to stay sane...

I've debated whether to do a this post lest I be accused of being too callous, but since this is Notes from the Underground and not your regularly scheduled program, why not? 
So let's talk pandemic... this will be a little more serious than yesterday's notes.
Step aleph: What confronts us is not a choice of whether to lock down our cities in order to save some unknown % of people, but rather a choice of whether to lock down our cities to save some unknown % of people AT THE EXPENSE of the cost IN LIVES (literally) of some other unknown % of people.  In other words, this a large scale version of the trolley problem, except here you don't know how many lives it will cost to save how many other lives.
Maybe I am wrong, but I think doctors in particular have a hard time wrapping their heads around this.  A doctor I used to go to (I don't anymore for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of his care) would remind me every visit to mind my high blood pressure as it could cause health problems like heart disease, stroke, and all kinds of other unpleasant things that might shorten my life.  This same doctor has recently written that everyone should quarantine for their own safety -- meaning, no one goes to work, opens their business, etc.  Meaning, millions of people unemployed, people suffering the risk of foreclosure, bankruptcy, economic distress, etc. -- all guaranteed to raise blood pressure and send people to an earlier grave!  Talk about cognitive dissonance.  As a result of the total lockdown approach we can look forward to increases in the rates of alcoholism, depression, drug use, family violence, divorce, crime, and even suicide, and who knows what the educational effects of cancelling 1/4 of a school year are.  Do those who will suffer these effects have a right to say "Mi y'eimar d'dama didach sumak tfei?"    
No matter what you do in life, there is a degree of risk involved.  We cannot function as a society without risk.  You drive a car?  There are thousands of car accidents each year, some of which are fatal.  You walk outside?  You think pedestrians never get killed?  Yet as individuals and as a society, we accept these risks and don't curtail our lives because of them.
So here are the three questions I think anyone in favor of total lockdown needs to answer: 1) A numbers question -- how much risk is OK?  If a few thousand car accidents is OK, a few hundred thousand deaths from flu is OK, at what point (quantity) does it become not OK and we shut cities down?  2) An ethical question -- whatever that quantity is, why are fewer deaths than that # acceptable but more not?  3) A public policy question -- who gets to decide that number for society at large?   Elected officials?  You mean the same folks who used this crisis as a means to give themselves a 25k raise and give more money to "important" institutions like National Endowment for the Arts?  Or maybe Doctors?  Some other bureaucratic agency administrators?  
Wanting the world economy to not shut down is not putting economics above human life.  That would indeed be callous.  It is simply taking into consideration the totality of ALL the lives effected in both the short term and long term, which seems to me to be a more fair and just approach to the situation at hand.
Anyway, it is the chodesh of hischadshus, and Hashem should give us refuah and yeshu'a so we don't have to grapple with these issues.
Tomorrow hopefully an erev Shabbos Note from the Underground. 


  1. "Hashem should give we don't have to grapple with these issues"

    per The Yeshayahu Report, Hashem views nations as a [pathogenic] droplet in a bucket (40:15), whose collective grapplings can fully seize neither the justice (:14), nor the advisories (:13), nor the measurements and measures (:12) of He Whose hand is ever on the lever of a heavenly "trolley", of a Merkavah Turbo faster than the speed of light...

  2. (1) A numbers question -- how much risk is OK?
    That can only answered if you actually know the risk factors. The chances of getting hit by a car are relatively consistent and predictable. The chances of murdering people by spreading covid are not

    (2) An ethical question -- whatever that quantity is, why are fewer deaths than that # acceptable but more not? This doesn't seem accurate. Causing ANY deaths is absolutely unacceptable. A safe driver can be relatively certain he won't kill anyone a person spreading coronavirus can not

    (3) A public policy question -- who gets to decide that number for society at large?

    This is a much more difficult question to answer. Probably nobody but if those who are privy to the information are insisting that going about can endanger others (and personal observation shows that as well) then each individual would have to listen to those authorities.

    Halacha certainly allows following evacuation orders on Shabbos. Why?

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. There is a lot of talk in some circles that dismisses the economic cost of distancing in light of the life and death nature of its goals.

    But poverty kills. Poorer people have a lower life expentency -- in addition to the reasons given, because people who were laid off lose their insurance just when they are more likely to need it! People without insurance or even those who retain insurance but are counting the pennies going into co-payments will end up rationing their medication, be less likely to go to a doctor, or make do with a cheaper office, etc...

    (Also, cheap food often is less nutritionally sound.)

    1. Ah, and people who can't afford to retire working beyond when they medically should have...