When you have cancer, you suffer through the disease and you suffer through the cure.
It’s the same way with coronavirus.
The cure may be as bad as the disease.
That’s the view of many as government-mandated social-distancing orders shut down businesses and disrupt life in fundamental and damaging ways. The measures are doubly irksome because, in New York, they come from a governor who entered the crisis with the lowest public-approval numbers of his tenure, and whose autocratic manner seems dismissive and contemptuous of anyone who questions his actions.
And so it is that in the name of fighting the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are out of work in the restaurant and bar sector alone. By gubernatorial decree, waitresses as a category have been pushed into unemployment.
By a state government that can’t even make its unemployment website work.
And that pisses people off.
Because not only are they out of work temporarily, many of the mom-and-pop bars and restaurants in New York will never come back. Already saddled with the highest state-mandated minimum wage in the nation, in an industry of thin margins, being closed at government whim is unsurvivable.
All in the name of the coronavirus.
And it’s not just restaurants, of course. It’s amusement parks and concert venues, caterers and wedding planners, movie theaters and community festivals. Everyone from band members to advertising sales people is hit, because of a government order, for a disease that for most exists only on the evening news.
This is not an argument against the public-health measures of any level of government, but it is a complaint that the effort to slow the spread of coronavirus will economically damage the lives of a significant portion of American society for years to come.
And while life is more important than money, being able to work or run a business and provide for your family is not an insignificant matter, though it seems to be given no weight in government coronavirus dictates. In upstate New York, already one of the most economically challenged regions in America, government orders have shut down a significant percentage of the local, private-sector economy.
And that doesn’t get all better because the governor says the state won’t prosecute you if you are behind on your college loans. Nor does a thousand dollars of additional national debt in your mail box do anything of substance to someone who has just had the government kill their job or business.
The unspoken equation is: How much economic disruption are you willing to impose on how many people to save how many lives?
You hear that in the observation that the flu kills as many people as the Vietnam War – on a bad year – and yet we don’t shut down society over it. The obvious difference is that the flu has some vaccine protection and the new coronavirus does not. Efforts at social distancing are hoped to serve the role of a vaccine, and limit the spread of the disease.
But that distinction is lost on people who are confronted with the instant, government-ordered destruction of the paradigm of their economic lives.
And that doesn’t get cured by a Democrat welfare payment or a Republican tax cut. People are angry because they have been handed, in little more than a week, an apparent loss of both their prosperity and their freedom.
While getting mocked on social media and the evening news for buying toilet paper and pasta.
Health is one category of wellbeing. Economic stability is another. And the reality of our current situation is that the economic stability of the many is being sacrificed to protect the health of the few.
That might be a tradeoff that a society would be willing to make. But it is not a tradeoff that will be easily accepted in a command environment.
People are seeing their lives crumble on the basis of a “trust me” from politicians and public health officials who they may not particularly know or trust.
And that is troubling. It creates anxiety and upset. Not at some unseen virus, but at destructive government power exercised autocratically and destructively in their lives.
The government has decided that to save lives it will destroy livelihoods, but it has not sold that proposition to the people, or shown much empathy when the pain of the cure seems worse than the disease.