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March 24, 2020

Posted by Patrick at 07:25 AM * 54 comments

Reading about all the people venturing that maybe it would be better to stop the social distancing and reopen the businesses, because tHe dAmAge tO tHe EcOnoMy is So mUcH wOrSe thAn A fEw MiLliOn dEaThS. As someone on Twitter put it, “throwing millions of people into a volcano to appease the Market God.”

I find myself remembering all the times I’ve heard people in the science fiction world, including eminent authors, muse that it would probably be for the best to have some big die-off events. I suspect that at least one in three Americans believes this. I suspect I have friends and colleagues who quietly believe this.

I can’t stop thinking about it. I feel surrounded by ghouls.

Comments on Surrounded:
#1 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 08:08 AM:

*reads what you have written*

#2 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 08:29 AM:


People who think that are wrong. They are ignorant and wrong.

We can take care of each other. Stay home. Most employers are not going to be stupid. Governors of individual states are going to continue telling people to stay home.

What's going to be difficult for many are the hours of work increasing. People working in medicine, in retail, in "vital" jobs who will increasingly have longer hours as peers either become sick (not just from CONVID-19; stress, over work, etc. are already a factor) or quit out of fear of contagion.

And for others, our income has dropped precipitately, without a government funded social network.

We're going to have to create our own social networks. This means sharing resources like food where we can.

This will change the economy, and our lives, but not the was 🤥🤥👖🔥 Trump thinks. Look at the 14th century; there's a map showing good and bad routes.

But please hang in there. We can protect ourselves and our loved ones—says she who has not left an apartment for longer than thirty minutes in months. Because my 96 year old mom is very very vulnerable.

#3 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 08:44 AM:

A pandemic is a wicked problem: unclear and rapidly changing specification; no actual point at which we have solved it and can move on; and no right solution, just better and worse strategies.

Like all the wicked problems currently confronting us, there are many very intelligent and highly-motivated people employing all the tools of science to tackle it. (I have my own small piece of a different wicked problem to work on.)

But like all such problems, that's not enough. It's not just the scientific insights: these problems require the political and social will. That's where the US, and many other countries are falling short. A pandemic is a faster sort of slow motion disaster, and like puppies, humans mostly don't learn well unless you can rub their noses in it. In a few months I expect rousing choruses of, "Why didn't anyone TELL US?"


I am an environmental scientist. I can tell you many ways in which a smaller human population would be good for the environment. I am a human, and this is so very not how I want to get to that point. I am emphatically not okay with people dying for the good of the environment, good of the economy, or any other reason beyond peaceful old age.

#4 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 08:53 AM:

I've amended the OP to forstall a possible misreading. The thing I can't stop thinking about is not the idea that we should let millions of people die. That idea is vile.

#5 ::: Patrick Linnen ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 09:14 AM:

'Lifeboat Ethics', promoted by Garrett Hardin (originator of the idea of the 'Tragedy of the Commons'). It is also known as ecofascism.

#6 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 09:17 AM:

The thing I find baffling is how short-term this thinking is.

Not for Trump, ofc, who is legendary for his view of life as a game of running across a river hopping from the back of one alligator to another before he can get his leg bitten off.

But for the right-wing establishment, whose whole schtick is "rationality" and "long-term thinking" and "self-control" (think of the gleeful repetition of the discredited Marshmellow Test and the rhetoric about the "poor life choices" that lead to single parenthood, addiction, and inadequate retirement savings or health insurance).

How is it that these self-congratulatory long-game-players can't see that murdering one in five American seniors is a self-limiting move when frightened old white people are the primary source of turkeys who can be counted upon to vote for Christmas every four years?

The right has an antimajoritarian, elitist agenda. Right-wing thought is essentially the belief that some people are destined to rule, and others are destined to be ruled over by their betters, and the world is best when the right people are atop the pyramid. Splits in the right are about who should rule: Dominionists want Christian men in charge; libertarians want bosses in charge, imperialists want America in charge, racists want white people in charge, etc.

Antimajoritarian projects struggle in democracies, for obvious reasons. When your platform is "only 1% of us should be making decisions" it's hard to win 51% of the vote. That's why the right focuses so hard on gerrymandering and voter suppression, and why the otherwise untenable coalitions -- finaciers and young-Earth Creationists, say -- persist.

But the biggest source of ballots in support of rule by elites is frightened people, especially frightened bigots who think that the elites will promote their interests ahead of the disfavored minorities (think: Dixiecrats).

So murdering 20% of the most reliable source of votes for elite rule is a farcically shortsighted thing to do.

I am terrified of a Biden candidacy not merely because I think his policies are poor, but because I think he is really bad at being a candidate, and will struggle to win.

But Trump murdering 20% of his base might just be enough to make him LOSE. It may be that while he could murder someone in the middle of 5th Ave and get away with it, he can't sentence 20% of US pensioners to gruesome deaths and get away with it.

I'm not gleeful at this prospect. I am totally aghast. I barely slept last night, waking up dozens of times with this genocide playing out in my imagination.

But I am incredibly SURPRISED. How does the self-declared Party of the Long View not see that this is going to destroy it?

The stock market is circling the drain and obviously this is very distressing for the donor class, but almost no Americans own any significant stocks, because most Americans have NO savings. The idea that rescuing share prices by killing the elderly will get the turkeys out to vote for Christmas is clearly wrong.

#7 ::: Prendle ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 09:40 AM:

There are many effects from destroying the economy that are not obvious. The governor of NY was just talking about a 9 month shutdown, and I am stunned at the lack of foresight and understanding of the mind who thought that was reasonable.

Poverty brings with it a lot of suffering, not just for the first generation, but for future generations. And personally I'd rather die than take on much more suffering.

#8 ::: Prendle ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 09:50 AM:

Also the national debt is so high, and there is so much theft in the system, we may be in the phase now where if growth stops for too long we'll enter the next great depression. I doubt that's the fear of the corporate neolibs and neocons though. Their fear is mostly that this is keeping them from stealing as much.

We need a new party. A third party, a people's party, to unite the non-cultists of the left and right, and pull in a lot of the independents who have given up. We need to make the hard compromises on things that drive people away, like not letting the party platform include controversial things like abortion (candidates can, but not the party). It should have a no spoiler clause where our candidate will step down and endorse if losing, in extreme cases like Hillary vs Trump. And the person to lead this party? Cory Doctorow. Well maybe it should be someone less polarizing. Certainly not me.

#9 ::: Michael Mock ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 09:51 AM:

My personal feeling is that these people aren't particularly smart; they're just rich. And they're used to having other people sacrifice for them, and I'm absolutely certain that at least some of them are still affronted that this virus had the sheer, unmitigated gall to make its way into Congress and infect people like them.

The rules have never applied to them before, after all.

So they're panicking, and trying to push these murderous, short-sighted, self-defeating strategies because that's all they have.

What's killing me emotionally is that I don't see more people turning on them for this. How is there not a row of guillotines in the street in front of our Lt Governor's house right now? (Yes, I'm in Texas.)

#10 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 09:54 AM:

Obviously recessions and depressions cause untold suffering.

Just as obviously, if we yank all the social-distancing and lockdown measures, millions of people will die. Millions. 2.5 million people is over five times the US death toll in WWII. And meanwhile, as they die, they will crash our health care infrastructure.

Anyone who thinks this also won't beat the living crap out of our economy is, I submit, not exactly showing a lot of "foresight and understanding."

#11 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 09:57 AM:

My Strategic Eyeroll Reserve is insufficient to sustain an argument about the importance of the "national debt."

TL,DR, it's nowhere near as important as the debt scolds think it is. And it's amazing how quickly it blinks in and out of existence as a Serious Concern, depending on whose interests are at stake.

#12 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 10:05 AM:

There appear to be 2 answers to "Why do we have a society?", and the people we've put in charge of our society are the ones supporting the wrong answer.

#13 ::: CLP ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 10:43 AM:

Absolutely agree with you. Economies should exist to serve the well-being of people.

Also, the idea that millions of deaths wouldn’t also tank the economy is nonsensical!

About a decade ago, the right argued against the ACA with the bogus idea that it would lead to the advent of “death panels”. Now we are seeing very clearly that this was pure projection.

#14 ::: stefan jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 11:23 AM:

Tangentially relevant article from The Smithsonian:

I suspect that it is the ghouls who are surrounded. I'm seeing lots of furious reaction to this proposal.

Time to thoroughly shame those who promote it.

Stay well, everybody.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 11:50 AM:

My mom is 94, too incoherent to live by herself, has COPD and AFib and various other conditions, and last week was recommended for hospice care: Great! Let’s put her in a Petrie dish!

If she catches COVID-19, no triage worker is going to recommend anything beyond comfort measures while she suffocates.

#16 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 11:58 AM:

Aside from the bald-faced cruelty and stupidity of this thinking, I'm always charmed by the underlying belief that these speakers have that it will be someone else gasping for breath without medical attention. Because I don't imagine these speakers, should they contract Covid-19 and spiral into a worse-case medical scenario, will be selflessly wheezing, "No, it's okay, put me on the ice floe for the good of the market!"

#17 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 11:59 AM:

Prendle, you're afraid, and that's keeping you from seeing that you're looking at the wrong things. "9 months of lockdown isn't "shutting everything down" - it's restricting, yes, but it's the only way to keep people from spreading the virus when they don't know they're sick (and half the people who get it don't know).

A "populist party" has been tried before and it loses. It makes things worse, in fact, because it pulls votes from one party that could have kept the worse candidate from winning.

The national debt isn't the problem. It's the policy of cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations, when they complain about having to pay their share. You and I shouldn't have to pay more in taxes than Exxon or Amazon!

#18 ::: Greg Hullender ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 12:07 PM:

We need a lot of creative suggestions to get through this, and "just let the old, the weak, and the sick die" is not creative. We need ideas like encouraging people to wear masks and gloves as fashion accessories to enable most of the population to return to work (if, in fact, that would work).

But we could do we less drinking aquarium cleaner thinking it's a cure.

#19 ::: Prendle ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 12:16 PM:

> Prendle, you're afraid, and that's keeping you from seeing that you're looking at the wrong things. "9 months of lockdown isn't "shutting everything down" - it's restricting, yes, but it's the only way to keep people from spreading the virus when they don't know they're sick (and half the people who get it don't know).

It's clueless. China is already opening up Wuhan. If we were in a plague so bad we needed a 9 month shutdown, we would be resigned to entering a depression. I'm just saying we need to balance all factors with the goal of minimizing death and suffering.

> A "populist party" has been tried before and it loses. It makes things worse, in fact, because it pulls votes from one party that could have kept the worse candidate from winning.

That's why I put in the "no spoiler" part. Please read and cogitate my entire statement before telling me I'm wrong. The time is ripe now for a revolution. It is possible and doable. If there are problems, come up with solutions. "It can never work" is exactly what the establishment wants you to think. There is a solution. Think outside the box.

#20 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 12:46 PM:

From a tweet way back: In retrospect, I resorted to cannibalism rather faster than I should have.

#21 ::: stefan jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 12:52 PM:

#16: I was gratified to see that representatives and senators were being declared C-19 positive; not because I wish them ill, but because it gives them and their colleagues some perspective about this outbreak. Anyone is vulnerable.

* * *

@Teresa: I am so sorry.

The well of misery and injustice is so deep right now.

* * *
Oh, man:

Jerry Fallwell, Jr., is calling back the staff and students of Liberty University.

Can this be ANYTHING but the result of Trump's signal?

When those kids and the staff start getting sick, and the school is closed again. they'll go home to communities predisposed to not believing there ever was a problem.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 02:15 PM:

The medical experts are talking FIVE months of lockdown. The politicians don't understand what they're dealing with, don't necessarily want to understand, and think that things can go back to The Way They Think They Were with no changes. It Won't Be Like That.

We're going to have a depression anyway, because that's what pandemics do. Go read about the plague in the 1340s - that was far worse.

And find news sources that don't try to fill you with fear. Fear kills your thinking.

#23 ::: elizabeth bear ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 02:28 PM:

I'm really, really over those people.

I suspect some of them are engaged in cozy apocalypse magical thinking where the protagonists all survive and build a new world in the ashes of the old.

Not the real world, where people we love and even we ourselves are the victims of horrible things and no amount of positive thinking or Being Right can stop it.

I envision some of them trying to mansplain to the viruses. "No, no, I didn't mean ME."

#24 ::: jack lecou ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 02:57 PM:

The weird thing is there IS a way to have your cake and eat it too. Or there would have been, 6-12 months ago. What you do is prepare for disasters like this ahead of time, so you’re ready to leap into action when something comes up. Much like Korea did.

You generously fund infectious disease research and response agencies such as the CDC. You maintain proper stockpiles of medical equipment, medicines and PPE. You ensure that adequately sized medical facilities exist in every community, and have readiness plans and drills. Most importantly, you put scientific and medical experts in charge of all of that, and listen to their advice. Simple.

So where were all these Very Rational Big-Brained Long Term Thinkers a couple of years ago when science budgets and pandemic preparedness were getting slashed to the bone, with political flunkies appointed to oversee the flayed corpses of vital government functions?

Back *then* those programs were all "too expensive". Yet somehow *now* it's all "sacrifices must be made".

I can’t wait until we get to see these people reacting to more and more climate change disasters. Not like anybody can see those coming or anything.

#25 ::: Prendle ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 03:33 PM:

> TL,DR, it's nowhere near as important as the debt scolds think it is.

Don't you realize Trump and the Republicans are trying to bankrupt the nation in the name of Small Government? They are adding 1T a year to the debt and this year it might be 10T. Then they leave the mess for the next Dem president who always has to spend years fixing the economy. You want to let the right control the narrative on the national debt? We should be shouting about it from the rooftops. They definitely will after a Dem wins.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 04:34 PM:

Yes. But that wasn't what you were talking about. That's the deficit, not the national debt. They're two different things.

#27 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 04:48 PM:

Cory, I suspect the right-wing establishment types who are thinking about this to any rational extent are counting on most of the losses occurring in high-population-density regions that trend strongly blue anyway.

I can also see some attempts to turn this into an anti-urban, anti-immigrant thing. Possibly they’re hoping that some portion of independent voters will blame Democratic policies for their dead friends and relatives.

#28 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 05:02 PM:

I suspect these crazy arguments arise from elite panic. The proponents seem to be mostly rich right-wingers (check) of an authoritarian temperamental bent (check) and they're scared of losing money/status (check) and want the threat to be over so they can move on and forget about it (check).

They're also terrified that it's coinciding with a shift off oil for automobiles (to EVs -- the shift is coming very fast indeed in terms of how the automotive industry works: Tesla just manufactured their millionth car, up from being a niche maker of luxury sports models a decade ago), the end of coal, the end of the post-2008 financial bubble, demographic shifts turning red states blue and ending white Protestant domination of politics, and, and ...

It's gotta be absolutely terrifying to be an old rich white male oligarch these days. Doesn't mean I won't be cheering on the tumbrils if this goes on, though. (Even though I know where that sort of thing ends up. Ugh.)

#29 ::: jack lecou ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 05:03 PM:

> You want to let the right control the narrative on the national debt? We should be shouting about it from the rooftops.

You're parroting right wing narrative in this very post. "Bankrupt the nation", "$some-big-number-T", etc. Those are all right wing talking points. Discussing debt and deficits as problems in and of themselves is playing straight into their hands.

Debt is just a tool. You can criticize poorly considered (ab)uses of the tool, without criticizing the tool itself and buying into the (R) rhetorical game. E.g., tax cuts for the wealthy aren't bad policy because they increase the debt -- lots of policies that are good can increase the debt -- no, they're bad policy because they're massively expensive, promote inequality, and don't even really help anyone.

The (R)s wield debt like a political bludgeon, but the rhetoric is all pure mythology. The truth is, debt itself doesn't matter much. The likeliest way to ruin our economy or bankrupt ourselves isn't through debt. It's by freaking out about debt and then auto-asphyxiating ourselves with austerity measures. As long as we don't succumb to that temptation, the debt itself is mostly harmless. (If anything, we should probably be spending a lot more than we do.)

It's not like attacking tax breaks or whatever in debt-based terms is going to get the Rs to show restraint, after all. They don't really believe any of it. All you'll accomplish is to give their precious debt-is-crippling-us message that much more traction and potency the next time (D)s are at the big desks and something progressive comes up. "See, even Prendle thinks the debt is bankrupting us. That's why we need to cut services and can't afford a new healthcare system."

The only winning move is not to play.

#30 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 05:09 PM:

Teresa: you have my deepest sympathy.

#31 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 07:17 PM:

as elizabeth says, I suspect this is just cozy apocalypse magical thinking. The same thinking on the left gave us Biden instead of Warren as the candidate - let's just Go Back to Normal. But there isn't a normal to go back to.

Lifting the social distancing restrictions won't get the economy back for many different reasons, including the supply chains that will continue to be disrupted by other countries behaving rationally. Then the two million dead will tank the economy even deeper, as well as destroy what little trust is left in government. Maybe that is the bold end plan, Trump is on record as gleefully welcoming catastrophe. Meantime his base entertains billionaire prepper endtimes fantasies, where the lights and water stay on somehow. Perhaps the invisible hand will take care of the sewers as well ?
Our problem is that US government worked so well so long that it became invisible. Now it's almost gone..

#32 ::: Prendle ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 08:47 PM:

> That's the deficit, not the national debt. They're two different things.

The deficit is added to the debt every year, correct?

> You're parroting right wing narrative in this very post. "Bankrupt the nation", "$some-big-number-T", etc. Those are all right wing talking points. Discussing debt and deficits as problems in and of themselves is playing straight into their hands.

I think that NOT discussing them is playing into their hands. They get to attack us on it while we borrow to fix their messes, then when they borrow trillions to pay off their friends, we are silent. And they've managed to convince the left that talking about it is helping them. God help us all if we don't stop using their rulebook.

#33 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 10:56 PM:

No, that isn't how it works at all. The national debt is the difference between what we pay for exports and what we pay for imports.
The deficit is the difference between income (from taxes, mostly) and outgo (spending).

#34 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 11:17 PM:

P J Evans @33

The deficit is the difference between government revenues (taxes, duties, fines, exises, etc) and government expendatures in a given year.

The national debt is the sum total of money borrowed to pay for expendatures. It is effectively the difference between total revenues (from 1789-present) and expendatures (from 1789-present), with a small rounding-error's amount of debt assumed from the previous government.

The trade deficit/surplus is the difference between our imports and exports.

Personally, I agree with Keynes: run surpluses in the good times, deficits in the bad. But if they won't listen to Keynes, they won't listen to me. They surprisingly won't listen to Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek either, both of whom said that universal healthcare was an important enabler of making capitalism work right.

#35 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2020, 11:44 PM:

I wish they'd stop listening to people who think starving poor people is a Good Idea. And for Ghu's sake, lose Laffer.

#36 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 05:36 AM:

Teresa @15: I am very sorry about your mom.

#37 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 06:05 AM:

"Obviously recessions and depressions cause untold suffering."

To follow up on Stefan Jones's comment (#14): The counterintuitive but apparently real thing is that people who have actually looked at recessions and depressions find that death rates go down, not up. (Yes, suicide rates do go up, but they're drowned out by the decrease in other death rates.) At least for the US and Britain and Canada and Germany, which is where I'm aware that people have looked.

A general overview:

Here's another study, not mentioned in the article, which looked at trends over the period 1920-1999 in the US (and references a study done for the German economy for the period 1980-2000):

"The 5 years with the worst recessions in terms of GDP contraction (between 23.6 and 213.3%) were 1930–32, 1938 and 1946. During these years mortality dropped between 1.6 and 6.8%. The largest drop in mortality between 1920 and the end of the century, 10.6%, was in 1921, a strong recession year during which GDP contracted 2.2%."

This doesn't mean recessions and depressions are good, and it doesn't mean we should welcome them; that would be grotesque. But the idea that (as one deeply confused friend in my Facebook feed put it) "tens of millions of people will die if the economy craters!" is not supported by any evidence.

#38 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 08:51 AM:

Peter Erwin #37: I suspect a lot of that represents the effect of "not doing as much stuff". That is, workplace accidents will obviously go down with employment, but also people can't afford vacations, might not be socializing as much¹, probably drive less (auto accidents etc), and so on.

¹ In the current case any drop in infectious disease would probably be trumped by the actual epidemic, but a drop in fights might register.

#39 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 08:58 AM:

Thinking about the apparent paradox of reduced mortality in years with economic slowdowns, and I keep coming back to "Saint Peter don't you call me, 'cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store." I hear this in Tennessee Ernie Ford's voice.

#40 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 09:07 AM:

I realy did not expect the right to say these quiet parts loud, but I should have. The whole theme of the Trumpian era is turning dogwhistles into out-and-out whistles.

@Teresa, I'm so sorry. I've got a family member in a similar situation, and others who are front-line medical personnel. I'm watching my area of the south US fail to take this seriously at all, and not even the Waffle House Index tanking is changing that.

I keep trying to find ways to light candles against this darkness, but I feel as if I'm running out of candles.

#41 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 09:24 AM:

@Teresa, my profound sympathies.

#42 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 09:53 AM:

While many people don't have savings, many do. I am retired, living on a pension, an annuity, and social security. The pension is invested in the stock market, and the annuity is to some extent as well. If the market tanks, I don't know what kind of income, if any, I'll have. And it looks like the current idiots may try to take away the third, which I have paid into my whole working life. Buying individual stocks is one thing, but many people are indirectly "in the market". This crash will affect all of them at the very least. No, I don't want *anyone* to die to keep stocks high, but too many people are assuming that only the rich will be affected by the crash.

#43 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 10:02 AM:

Teresa, my sympathies as well. My parents are 70+ and 80+, but are in good health and hunkered down hard. (Admittedly, in Julie's case, social distancing represents little change from his normal routine, but Mom is the root of anxiety in the family, and she had us all prepping well in advance. ;-) ) My stepmother is off in Thailand, which is probably safer than the US just now.

And then my family noted that I'm a long-time smoker, and is conspiring to make sure I don't need to go into a store.... (Unfortunately, local deliveries are still kinda borked here.)

I'm most worried about my boss, who is only 70, but wheelchair-bound with MS. Shutting down the store has to be hard on him in itself, and he's a very social fellow.

#44 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 10:20 AM:

Magenta Griffith @42, agree that a stock market crash will affect many people not normally counted among the rich. I realize that expecting to retire in a few years and having 401K and 403B retirement accounts is a position of relative privilege, but we weren't planning on buying any yachts with it. Just, y'know, food and clothing and medical care. There's a wide range between "Billionaire" and "Hungry if I miss a paycheck and homeless if I miss two."

To be absolutely clear, I don't want people to die to maintain the value of my retirement account. But even if you think the stock market index is the best or only measure of a economic success (which I do not) it seems short-sighted to focus on current value and not on positioning the US for a recovery by maximizing the number of people who will be willing and able to buy and invest when the situation improves. Rather than being, say, homeless, or without the small business they spent years building, or mired in debt, or traumatized by the unnecessary deaths of friends or relatives. Or dead. Not to mention that a single sharp shock seems better than continued slippage.

#45 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 11:02 AM:

Wait, I already wrote the poem for this!

#46 ::: stefan jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 11:06 AM:

Britt Hume and other conservative pundits have come down on the side of "grandma would be happy to die for a good economy," and a county in Texas has issued an executive order for businesses to stay open.


We're just hitting the "it's EVERYWHERE!" part of this pandemic. I suspect that next week's body count is going to terrify people into forgetting getting back to work in time for Easter.

#47 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 09:30 PM:

Elizabeth Bear at #23:

"I suspect some of them are engaged in cozy apocalypse magical thinking where the protagonists all survive and build a new world in the ashes of the old."

I am in the middle of Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein, and that kind of describes the story in it.

So can we blame science fiction for the fact that people think this way?

#48 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 09:49 PM:


#49 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2020, 11:44 PM:

This coronavirus will not even make a dent in the human population. Our current growth rate is about 1.05% per year. If SARS-CoV2 spreads to 50% of the population (unlikely) and has a death rate of 2$ (about in the middle of its fatality estimate ranges: I've heard 1$ to 3% of total cases, with no real knowledge of how many are asymptomatic, that number of people will be replaced in a year, and we're back where we started.

So the folks with malthusiasm (great term!) are not going to get anything out of this particular plague.

#50 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2020, 12:43 PM:

Tom: of course, 1-3% mortality and 50% infected is "no biggie, we might get our hair mussed" in Doctor Strangelove's vernacular, but it's about 40-100M dead on the ground in the real world.

And then the fun and games start if it turns out that immunity doesn't persist, and we're going to get a new COVID-19 season running the same cycle on an annual basis ...

#51 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2020, 01:06 PM:

> So can we blame science fiction for the fact that people think this way?

Alternatively, we could blame socialists for abandoning science fiction to the tender mercies of the ecofascists. This is a fun game. Let's keep playing it.

#52 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2020, 03:06 PM:

Totally agreed, Charlie @50 -- and I wanted to point out that we'd get a lot of the grief and none of the benefit that the disaster-sayers want, out of the current scenario. Which, perhaps, might give some of them pause.

#53 ::: Venus ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2020, 09:52 AM:

@50 Charlie, one of the few good pieces of news I saw recently was that current epidemiology studies are showing very low mutation rates for this virus, despite it hoofing all over the globe. They hope/predict that if they can get a vaccine working, it will hold. (I first saw the news on WaPo, but I've also seen it elsenet now.)

#54 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2020, 01:30 PM:

Patrick, thanks for the link to the Intelligencer article. Sarah Jones wrote:

America has hit an inflection point. It will emerge from this calamity a more generous nation, or it will become more atomized and more callous than it had been before. I don’t know which direction we’ll take.
For people who lived through the Depression, it went both ways. My two sets of grandparents went through the same hard times in the same area and learned completely different lessons. One set made it through because they and their friends and neighbors helped each other. They learned to be even more thrifty and kind and generous. The other set was better off but they felt deprived and that they never got all that they deserved. They learned that you had to look out for yourself, to take all you can and hold on to it.

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