Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has said, and repeatedly returned to the theme, that all of the lock downs and quarantines in his state will be worth it even if it saves “just one life.” Other Democratic governors and mayors have made similar statements. Last night Joe Biden tweeted, in an apparent response to Trump’s desire to re-open the economy sooner rather than later, that “no one is expendable” and “no life is worth losing to add one more point to the Dow.”
The first problem with these comments is that they are manifestly absurd. Obviously it would not be worth it to collapse the economy and consign millions to destitution just to save one life. And while it’s true that no one is expendable as an individual, it is not true that “no life is worth losing” in order to salvage the economy. Biden is trying to turn the economic concerns of those who want to end the shut downs into a quibble over points on the stock market index, but he knows better. What’s at stake here is not merely the stock market but the livelihoods of countless Americans. What he has really argued, then, is that it cannot be worth it for any individual life to be lost in order to preserve the livelihoods of many millions. That is simply ridiculous. As I wrote yesterday, we all believe that 35,000 dead on our roadways every year is a price worth paying so that we can drive around and get from Point A to Point B quicker. The idea that even one dead person is not worth it to preserve the entire economy is, therefore, nonsensical.
Now, it may be possible to take these statements from Cuomo, Biden, et al, in a more generous light. Perhaps they aren’t speaking literally and what they really mean is simply that life is enormously precious and great sacrifice is sometimes necessary to preserve it. Well, I’d suggest that now is not the time for vague hyperbole from our leaders, and if they mean “life is enormously precious and great sacrifice is sometimes necessary to preserve it” they should simply say so. More to the point, however, we already know that these people do not actually view human life this way. They do not think human life is, in and of itself, precious.
Governor Cuomo just last year signed a bill into law that legalizes abortion through every stage of pregnancy. Cuomo believes in, and has helped to facilitate, the murder of fully-developed and viable infants in the womb. This is Biden’s view, too, though only recently adopted. It is clear that they do not think life is precious, they do not believe that Heaven and Earth should be moved to save one life or even a million lives (the number killed by abortion every year), and they do in fact believe that some life is expendable. To these Democrats, human life prior to birth has less than no value. It has, indeed, negative value. According to their ideology, the destruction of innocent life can sometimes be a positive good and cause for celebration.
I don’t suggest that Cuomo, Biden, or any of the rest of them are insincere in their concern for the mostly elderly people being killed by the coronavirus. I’m sure they do find the death toll quite troubling, just as any rational person would. But they are plainly insincere in their concern for human life generally. So, we cannot take their “destroy the economy to save one life” arguments literally because the literal interpretation is insane. And we cannot take the arguments broadly and non-literally because the broad and non-literal interpretation conflicts with their platforms and policies. We are left, then, with no way to take them at all. Except as lies, plain and simple.