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COVID-19: Are government resources better spent on public health or stimulating the economy? Show more Show less
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Much of the world is now in lockdown to protect populations from the deadly spread of coronavirus. Yet, the US government is looking into an alternative approach. The latest statements from Donald Trump insist that 'the cure...[cannot be] worse than the disease'. These comments mark a striking policy difference to the rest of the world. Namely, they place more value on economic growth than on human life. During this unique pandemic, are government funds better spent on public health, or on stimulating the economy?

This is a false dichotomy Show more Show less

These two elements are intertwined. Neglecting public health will cause a damaging chain of events, including global economic ruin.
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Hardline economism is obscuring the reality of coronavirus

Increasingly, political analyses use statistics and economic forecasts to make decisions. But these can be extremely misleading.
coronavirus economy health pandemic politics trump
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Economism is in. And unless we broaden our understanding of the economy to account for human behaviour, any conclusions we draw will be dangerously flawed.

The Argument

Considering public health and economic growth to have equal weight in choosing where to invest government funds is misleading. Such a position rests on the principles of economism: the belief that 'everything can be simplified to models and curves, and that it’s possible to count and maximize utility in every circumstance'. [1] This is simply untrue, as these analyses do not account for key drivers of economic change: people, and how behaviours, priorities and emotional responses may change after coronavirus. If a government failed to grasp this, and prioritised the economy, there would be dire consequences. 'No one would trade with anyone for years. Trade would grind to a halt because of mourning, fear of infection, society-wide trauma and social unrest'.[1]

Counter arguments

Economism prevails because it offers an unbiased, scientific understanding of complex human issues. Rather than take a politically-charged viewpoint, economism relies on data, and is therefore entirely based on facts rather than opinions. This makes it a more reliable basis for financial forecasting than others.


[P1] Economic growth depends on human behaviour [P2] Economism depends on data-driven analysis [P3] The White House's approach is based on economist interpretations

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Economic growth does not depend on human behaviour




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This page was last edited on Sunday, 29 Mar 2020 at 23:57 UTC