Rich People Are Questioning Whether We Should Just Let Old People Die To Save The Economy

"Is a person who has lived into their late 70s, 80s or 90s owed the same priority to preserve life?"

stockmarket, coronavirus

Around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has cost the lives of more than 88,000 people — with many, many more deaths to come.

But there’s another cost; one that has wiped trillions off the global stockmarket, cost millions of jobs, closed hundreds of thousands of businesses and is affecting lives across the globe. The financial impact of the coronavirus crisis has been devastating for many, particularly those who have lost their jobs as a result of the downturn — but most people don’t think their ability to make money should come at the expense of other people dying.

Still, there are people out there who are questioning whether the restrictions we have in place to try and save people’s lives are worth the economic damage they’re causing.

In fact, many conservatives (read: the people who have gotten rich off the back off a system that favours the already wealthy) are treating this equation like it’s some kind of modern day trolley problem.

“Lives Matter, But At What Cost?”

We’ve had no shortage of tone deaf reactions to this crisis — from everyday people refusing to social distance, through to celebrities in their million dollar homes claiming we’re all in this together — but there’s probably nothing more outrageous than literally some people might have to die in order to save the rest of us.

That’s the take in today’s Australian Financial Review, where his main argument was “lives matter but at what cost”.

His article laments the high economic and social price being paid — and look, haven’t we all.

He rightly highlights the struggles people are facing as businesses close and unemployment rises, and draws a link between recessions and rises in things like suicide, domestic abuse and crime. That’s a fair point. Where he really starts to lose people is when he brings up the idea of letting older people (including his own father) die so the rest of us don’t have to deal with any of that.

“It is legitimate to ask if policymakers should prioritise people of all ages equally,” he wrote. “The coronavirus overwhelmingly kills older people.

“Is a person who has lived into their late 70s, 80s or 90s owed the same priority to preserve life as a person in their 20s or 30s who typically has more than 50 years still to live? My father is 68 and insists he’s had a good run … many seniors like him would not put their own life above the livelihoods of their children and grandchildren, if the economic and social costs are too great.”

The writer is far from the only person out there advocating for older people (and other at-risk groups) to hurry up and sacrifice themselves already.

This week, our former foreign minister Alexander Downer questioned whether we should accept people dying in order to “save society” — something he pondered as a “moral dilemma”.

Apparently, letting people die when it could be avoided seems like an acceptable trade-off so that the rest of us aren’t inconvenienced for longer than we need to be.

Overseas, We See The Results Of Putting Profit Before People

For what it’s worth, our Prime Minister (and former Treasurer, remember) has firmly stated that every Australian life matters throughout this crisis. That concern has been the driving force behind our strict shutdown measures — which are working, by the way.

Overseas, concern for the financial markets seems to be behind the US’ slow response to the virus — Across his Presidency, Donald Trump has touted the sharemarket’s growth as one of his key achievements. His desire to save the sharemarket is believed to be one of the driving factors behind his reluctance to shut the country down — a move has seen infections spiral and left more than 14,700 people dead.

Despite this, the same president who has lost an estimated $1 billion in one month due to the coronavirus has said he’s considering loosening restrictions because “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself“.

Right-wing media is getting right behind him, advocating for the country to get back to business as usual (even if business as usual ends up killing people).

One Fox News host questioned whether they were getting the balance right considering the mortality rate was less than one percent. Crucially, one percent of America’s total population is more than three million people.

Texas’ Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that he’s sure there are lots of grandparents out there who, like him, would be willing to die to protect the economy for their grandchildren.

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” he said.

“And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. That doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that, I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me.”

Honestly though, Australia’s economy wasn’t in the best shape of its life even before the coronavirus crisis hit us.

There are plenty of ways older people could have tried to remedy that and “put their own life above the livelihoods of their children” — say, getting rid of franking credits, negative gearing, and climate change-causing industries — but they haven’t been so keen on those ideas.

I doubt dying is going to sound any better to them.

So far Australia has lost 51 people to coronavirus. Those people, their families and their loved ones have already paid a price that no one else should have to.

Feature Image: Creative Commons