We’re Not Killing the Economy Over the Coronavirus. We’re Putting It Into a Coma.
Published in The Washington Post
on March 25, 2020
Many people are worried that social distancing and state lockdowns will “kill the economy.” That’s the wrong analogy. Now that the massive $2 trillion stimulus bill is set to become law, there’s another analogy that fits better: inducing a coma.
Doctors frequently induce medical comas to give their patients’ brains time to heal from traumatic injuries. A doctor injects large amounts of sedatives into the person to induce the coma and then washes the drugs out of the person’s system as they get better.
That’s what is going on in the United States, and other countries, right now. The lockdowns and social distancing are artificially suppressing economic activity now because that’s the best way to stop the greater harm to society — the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As new infections subside and the risk of exponential, widespread contagion falls, the coma will be reversed by removing restrictions. Economic activity begins to come back to life, and the patient — us — will be healthier than would otherwise have been the case.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.