The Bizarre Refusal to Apply Cost-Benefit Analysis to COVID Debates, by Glenn Greenwald

Should the government pay $10 to save a life? $1,000? $1,000,000? $1,000,000,000? 10,000,000,000,000? That last number is $10 trillion, and there’s no way a government will bankrupt itself and pay that to save one life. At some point, whether it’s acknowledged or not, benefits are weighed against costs. People, businesses, and yes, even governments do it all the time. For some reason, though, it hasn’t been done for Covid measures. From Glenn Greenwald at

Gerald Josseph Trujillo Martinez watches a video on his tablet while his mother Ana Gabriela Martinez teaches a class inside their home in Matamoros, Mexico on May 25, 2021 (Photo by SERGIO FLORES/AFP via Getty Images)

In virtually every realm of public policy, Americans embrace policies which they know will kill people, sometimes large numbers of people. They do so not because they are psychopaths but because they are rational: they assess that those deaths that will inevitably result from the policies they support are worth it in exchange for the benefits those policies provide. This rational cost-benefit analysis, even when not expressed in such explicit or crude terms, is foundational to public policy debates — except when it comes to COVID, where it has been bizarrely declared off-limits.

The quickest and most guaranteed way to save hundreds of thousands of lives with policy changes would be to ban the use of automobiles, or severely restrict their usage to those authorized by the state on the ground of essential need (e.g., ambulances or food-delivery vehicles), or at least lower the nationwide speed limit to 25 mph. Any of those policies would immediately prevent huge numbers of human beings from dying. Each year, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “1.35 million people are killed on roadways around the world,” while “crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States for people aged 1–54.” Even with seat belts and airbags, a tragic number of life-years are lost given how many young people die or are left permanently and severely disabled by car accidents. Studies over the course of decades have demonstrated that even small reductions in speed limits save many lives, while radical reductions — supported by almost nobody — would eliminate most if not all deaths from car crashes.

Continue reading→

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.