Coronavirus lockdown: saving the economy or lives is a false dichotomy

(This article was published by REACTION)

False Dichotomy

For every one per cent increase in unemployment, 10,000 people die.

I have no idea whether this statement is true or false. It was a throwaway line in the film The Big Short  – a slap on the wrist for two young investors who had bet on the 2008 financial crash and were celebrating their “win” when it finally arrived.

As human beings, we have a strong tendency to put arguments forward in a binary fashion. You’re either for X of for Y. Now choose your side.

But life does not operate like that. Very few things are either/or. Most are also/and. Framing things as opposing binaries is not only misleading, it is highly socially divisive. It encourages tribalism.

We have seen this fallacy emerge again and again during the current pandemic. Do we “save lives” by extending lockdown restrictions, or do we “protect the economy” by allowing people to go back to work?

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