No Choice Between Lives and Economy: Response to Ismail Lagardien

Thinking that there is a choice between lives and the economy is fallacious. The economy is lives.

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In his article, Amid a raging pandemic, economics imperialism gives no inch, Ismail Lagardien displays a fundamental misunderstanding of economics and its effect on human beings. Rather than an isolated phenomenon, only of concern to elites, the economy and its failing due to lockdown should be of concern to us all. As there is no real distinction between the economy and the people which it contains.

Lagardien doesn’t like that so many people are worried about the economy. Rather, he wants us to stop looking through a purely economic lens, and recognise the complexity of life.

But in his effort to be complex, he has failed to understand exactly what the economy actually is. The economy isn’t a faceless, emotionless machine. It isn’t only a collection of graphs and numbers, with no bearing on real people.

The economy is a tangible thing, an organic entity that represents the sum of human interaction, transaction and production. The economy is the people within it. Every person produces and consumes. Every person wants to survive and thrive. This is all represented in the economy. Perhaps I am looking through the lens of economic imperialism, but it is a fact that the economy is made up of real people, not merely numbers.

When we fear that lockdown policies will hurt the economy, we aren’t worried about numbers. We are worried about real people, because these policies hurt real people. It hurts the waiter who won’t be able to feed his children. It hurts the brewer who can no longer afford medicine for his parents. And it ripples throughout society as real people starve because of government policy.

Thinking that there is a choice between lives and the economy is fallacious. The economy is lives.

Lagardien claims that those wanting to open up the economy will ultimately not shoulder the burden of doing so – that the state will. But the state, and all its infrastructure and welfare plans and programs, are funded by real people, who exist within an economy that is dying due to lockdown. They already shoulder the burden. And they will continue to do so regardless of what the state decides.

There is no choice between lives and the economy, and the only way to save both is to open up the latter. Let people work and let us decide our own future and fates.

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2 comments

  1. Stefan Reply

    The financially secure and those with (seemingly) guaranteed incomes, including grants, appear to have favored lockdown. Particularly in the South African context, dependance on the state has neutered informed objective opinion. Mainstream media is equally hesitant to take any position that can be construed as being callous to the lives of “our people “. Even if a livelihoods strategy had been adopted it is evident that left to individuals very little precautions would have been taken. Whatever the case, the horrific economic hardships millions are subject to, irrespective of their personal choices that may have contributed their situations, as exposes by the unrest will probably have the effect of negating any hard lockdown and may cause even the most fanatical that lives are in fact not priceless.

  2. Stefan Reply

    The financially secure and those with (seemingly) guaranteed incomes, including grants, appear to have favored lockdown. Particularly in the South African context, dependance on the state has neutered informed objective opinion. Mainstream media is equally hesitant to take any position that can be construed as being callous to the lives of “our people “. Even if a livelihoods strategy had been adopted it is evident that left to individuals very little precautions would have been taken. Whatever the case, the horrific economic hardships millions are subject to, irrespective of their personal choices that may have contributed their situations, as exposes by the unrest will probably have the effect of negating any hard lockdown and may cause even the most fanatical that lives are in fact not priceless.


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