The tragic outbreak of the Coronavirus has aroused an ever growing sentiment that “economics” ought take a back seat to the general welfare of humanity. History professor Cindy Ermus claimed in the Washington Post,
We must demand more from our leaders than we have received to date, and they must prioritize containing the pandemic over everything, including economic well-being.
From personal experience, the language among the general public conveys notions comparable to putting “people over profits.” An article in Forbes further echoes this attitude with the headline, “Coronavirus Response: People First, Economics Second “.
As dire as the Coronavirus is, it is critically important to be cognizant of what impressions are derived from the situation at hand. The impression that economics is a trivial matter to be eschewed is counterproductive.
Economics fundamentally deals with the allocation of resources. This is true across any school of thought, definition, or other classification. When dealing with a pandemic, the most imperative aspect is relaying medicine, health workers, sanitation equipment, etc. (i.e. resources) to those who require it. Materials and manpower cannot be summoned out of thin air and dispersed at will. There are limited amounts of supplies, labor, medical knowledge, and time that go into addressing any catastrophe. The affects of these limitations for any entity looking to subdue the Coronavirus outbreak are unavoidable.
Any objective with a hands-on plan of remedying the outbreak will inevitably require labor, supplies, and timing. Haphazardly ignoring these limitations will hamper how efficiently aid is distributed and received. Let’s say the absolute most effective plan on how to deal with the Coronavirus was devised. If the quantities of substances specified in said plan are already spent, the available help is tied up in another assignment, the approval process necessary to begin the plan proves extensive, etc., then the plan will either be functionally non-existent or scrapped down to more manageable albeit less effective tasks. In scenarios where people’s lives are at stake (such as the immunocompromised infected with the Coronavirus), the often overlooked constraints of economics can play a literally fatal role.
Given how entrenched economics is in dealing with catastrophe, fostering discourse disparaging economics in times of crisis is absurd. Resources and allocation efficiency are the only factors that will allow humanity to overcome the dangers of the Coronavirus. Kindling sentiments to the contrary will only spread misinformation and obscure feasible methods that would improve the general welfare.