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Thomas Gallatin / Mar. 27, 2020

Leftmedia Pans Trump's Comparison to Traffic Deaths

His point was to raise real ethical consequences of economic damage in our pandemic response.

We’re still in the midst of the China Virus pandemic, which has forced the indefinite closure of many businesses and the subsequent layoff of millions of American workers, all in an emergency effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus. Naturally, legitimate concern has grown over how long the country can endure these quarantine conditions before creating another widespread crisis — an economic depression. This pressing concern was the context for President Donald Trump’s recent comments for which he has been roundly derided for making a false-equivalency argument.

Echoing his comments about not letting the cure become worse than the disease, Trump stated, “We lose thousands and thousands of people every year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off. … We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn’t call up the automobile companies and say, ‘Stop making cars. We don’t want anymore cars.’ We have to get back to work.”

“Your analysis comparing car accident deaths is bad,” The Washington Post squealed. “This comparison to car accidents falls apart simply because we don’t know the scale of deaths from the virus. We do know something about the virus that makes obvious how bad the comparison is: that it’s a virus.” In other words, the argument is that Trump is attempting to compare apples to oranges. But was Trump actually arguing that since we accept 35,000 to 40,000 annual traffic deaths we shouldn’t be concerned over a virus that could result in similar numbers of deaths?

The short answer is no. Instead, the point Trump was raising is the ethical dilemma every society and individual face every single day, whether we recognize it or not: At what point does the benefit of engaging in an action outweigh the potential negative consequences? With Trump’s auto-accident analogy, he notes that even with thousands of annual traffic deaths, American society at large believes the benefits from driving outweigh the negative consequences.

This is the same dilemma that he and the country face currently as we weigh the cost-benefit ratios associated with attempting to stop the spread of the virus via shutting down vast swaths of the economy against the negative consequences of significantly damaging the economy and people’s livelihoods. Where is the line drawn? That is what Trump was seeking to communicate, not some false-equivalency comparison. People starving to death after the economy is destroyed in an effort to stop the pandemic won’t be a positive outcome.

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