When I die, and if I’m remembered at all, it’ll probably be as that misanthropic bastard who authored that scurrilous piece of shite entitled “A Defense of Terrorism.” Sound as it is, I won’t be remembered for the argument. Rather it’ll be for my utter insensitivity. For I pointed out – albeit only as an aside – that on the weekend before 9/11, and on every weekend since, more people died on American highways than in those two towers, the Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania. In fact all the highway safety experts assure us that if America had spent on guardrails even a fraction of the trillions being squandered on so-called ‘homeland security’, it would’ve saved a hundred thousand lives. It would seem, then, that Americans care less about their loved one being killed than they do by whose hands.
Well yes, that’s true. But only an asshole would say it.
Similarly, then, only an asshole would say what I’m not about to say about the current coronavirus pandemic. What I’m not about to say is this:
As of today, March 18, there have been 200,000 confirmed infections, which means probably well over a million who’ve yet to be counted. So by all accounts we’re a long way short of the apex of the curve. We’ve lost some lives. We’re going to lose a lot more. And were it not for the draconian measures being implemented by governments all over the world, we’d lose a whole lot more than we’re going to lose.
Are we going to lose more lives to the coronavirus than we are to the carnage on our highways? Yes, but only because there’s going to be less carnage on our highways because of the coronavirus. That is, in the same way that, to the applause of some global warming worriers, the coronavirus is driving a decline in greenhouse gas emissions, it’s also driving a decline in travel. And the fewer the vehicles on the road, the fewer the deaths from vehicles hitting each other.
So once the two death tolls are added up, the unutterable question is whether the coronavirus will or will not have saved lives.
Note that to whatever degree highway accidents are avoidable – just don’t drive! – so too is the coronavirus – just don’t leave your house! One’s behavior in both cases is a function of her risk/benefit assessment. Note too that highway safety is as much of a collective action problem as is combatting the coronavirus. So the two cases are not just parallel. They’re perfectly parallel.
So, if insight this be, what are its implications? There aren’t any. You and I will both continue to ‘shelter in place’ except when we have to go out for groceries, at which time we’ll drive as we always do. That’s why none of what’s just not been said, though true, bears saying.