Add news
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020
News Every Day |

Stop Comparing the COVID Death Tally to 9/11

On the 11th of September, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman saw fit, taking a merciful break from scrawling in the New York Times, to calculate that the death toll of the current pandemic is “equivalent to 60 9/11s.” This crude accounting exercise isn’t novel. Fortune, Business Insider, National Geographic, the Hill, and the Associated Press had turned to actuarial science long before September, equating things far more diverse than airborne plagues. The Los Angeles Times charts, for our convenience, the body count of the coronavirus against those of “other deadly events” such as Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, and the Great War (which — the author doesn’t remind us — the United States wisely joined once everybody else had nearly had their fill of cordite and catastrophe).

These peculiar, utilitarian comparisons should immediately jolt your moral intuition. They imply that you should, in relative terms, care more, or panic, protest, vote, lambaste the administration more; that ultimately you should respond to a calamity in proportion to how highly its tally ranks. Media coverage of Bob Woodward’s Rage, his second Trump book in two years, prompts you to hold the president responsible for 200,000 American deaths. Numerical comparisons are therefore certain to proliferate: the Benghazi bungle, for instance, caused merely four American casualties, shrugs unblinking a former State Department analyst. “Such pains avoid, whichever be thy view,” per Jeremy Bentham, “if pains must come, let them extend to few.” However, even in their apparent similarity — in costing lives — wars, terrorism, and respiratory illness are morally dissimilar, and the damages they inflict mathematically incomparable.

The final occupants of the World Trade Center were attacked by a foreign cult of ghastly theocrats who had declared war against them, who exposed the insecurity of the United States and defaced her cultural capital to force foreign-policy submission. For a state charged with sustaining the American community, the appropriate moral and political response is irrelevant to how many deaths these infiltrators happened to cause. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed couldn’t have planned this number, and he would have surely aimed higher if he could. “Justice renders to everyone his due,” writes Cicero, by way of Aristotle, and what is due — and, one hopes, duly accorded — to Al-Qaeda is consummate defeat. This would have been equally true whether the airliners had miraculously missed their targets or the entire population of New York had somehow been jostling in them.

Wars, terrorism, and respiratory illness are morally dissimilar, and the damages they inflict mathematically incomparable.

The coronavirus pandemic is precisely that: pandemic, non-consciously afflicting humans (and some other animals) irrespective of their political identity and pursuing no conquest, caliphate, empire, or retribution for the murder of a Viennese archduke. This is not to say that its mortality rate is trivial, but that it is a blight of a different moral quality, requiring that we make categorically different judgments. The international effort to produce a vaccine — though we may plausibly employ warlike terms — is not to punish or defeat the virus or resolve a dispute with it. While his opponents may invoke comparisons of this crisis with terrorism and war to inflate the president’s liability, he impulsively invokes them too, to excoriate the Chinese. These are equally invalid. It should be obvious to all that the notion that every head of state suddenly became a wartime president in mid-March is frivolous.

We may evaluate the administration’s containment measures as appropriate, inadequate, short-sighted, prudent, delayed, right, or wrong (considering the contradictions of the World Health Organization, the tall task of policing private behavior in a country where civil liberty is — as it should be — sacrosanct, and the illusory dilemma of saving either lives or livelihoods, which beset our national conversation). But we may not in seriousness run the numbers and conclude that 2020 is “worse” than 2001 or 1964 or 1917. And we may not expect to be taken seriously if we suggest that Trump is approximately 60 times as culpable as Mohamed Atta’s crew, as if they are of equivalent moral standing.

Krugman’s tasteless commemoration last week invited the ire of the digital masses for suggesting that most Americans, after September 2001, didn’t retaliate against their Muslim co-citizens. But there was little objection to his claim that we are bedeviled chiefly by white supremacists (as incandescent Portland still crackles), and no qualm at all about his unrefined moral calculus. After all, the latter isn’t too surprising for an economist. But why and since when has utilitarianism become pop philosophy in the United States? Tabulating deaths, like units of pain equal across time and context, is a poor way of doing history. Next time a rogue arithmetician entices you with a version of this — asking you to appraise the damage of COVID-19 compared to the Third Punic War, or some such nonsense — dismiss it like an Aristotelian: confide that you would, in all honesty, rather have nothing to do with it.

The post Stop Comparing the COVID Death Tally to 9/11 appeared first on The American Spectator | USA News and Politics.

Read also

How Mushroom Group’s Michael Gudinski Pivoted and Built New Channels During the Pandemic

A social lockdown is a step too far – we are increasingly letting this damn virus control us

People can’t agree on this baffling picture, so do YOU see a creepy clown face or a cute dog?

News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here