October 29, 2020 Reading Time: 2 minutes

Mr. Yglesias:

You recently tweeted:

I guess if you have the Brussels/Frankfurt aversion to fiscal stimulus you end up in the same place as the Republicans and forced into the view that people need to die for “the economy.”

I can’t speak for Republicans, for I’m not (and never have been) one. But I can speak for myself, and I think also for many other lockdown opponents, when I decry your thoughtless mischaracterization of the motives and understanding of many of us who oppose continuation of the coercive suspensions of regular human commerce and engagement.

Specifically, we take offense at the impression you convey when you accuse us of believing that “people need to die for ‘the economy.’”

The economy is people – people producing, trading, cooperating, and consuming. Yet your wording conveys the impression that lockdown opponents wish to sacrifice lives to a non-sentient entity that is separate from people. In fact, however, to worry about the condition of the economy is to worry about the ability of people – actual flesh-and-blood-and-bone human beings – to continue to meet their basic needs, including putting food on their tables, roofs over their heads, winter coats on their backs, and knowledge into their children’s minds. To worry about the economy is also to understand that people are not provided for simply by being handed government checks. And it is further to realize that economic output – output of real goods and services – is not miraculously maintained by “stimulus” funds if workers are locked out of their places of employment.

To the extent that productive activity is obstructed by lockdown orders and threats of such – as well as by the context-free and irresponsible fear-mongering that’s gone viral – people will suffer and many will die as a consequence. Indeed, depending on the extent and precedents set by these orders, the result over the next few decades might very well be net loss of life as the economy is shorn of much of the flexibility and dynamism necessary to sustain economic growth – economic growth that alone brings better health care and enhanced ability of ordinary people to protect themselves from life’s hazards.

Reasonable people disagree over what are the best policies to deal with Covid-19. But contrary to the impression conveyed by your tweet, no serious person argues for sacrificing lives to “the economy” as a lifeless abstraction.


Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics and Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

Reprinted from Cafe Hayek

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald J. Boudreaux is a senior fellow with American Institute for Economic Research and with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; a Mercatus Center Board Member; and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University. He is the author of the books The Essential Hayek, Globalization, Hypocrites and Half-Wits, and his articles appear in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, US News & World Report as well as numerous scholarly journals. He writes a blog called Cafe Hayek and a regular column on economics for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Boudreaux earned a PhD in economics from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Virginia.

Get notified of new articles from Donald J. Boudreaux and AIER.
AIER - American Institute for Economic Research

250 Division Street | PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230-1000

Contact AIER
Telephone: 1-888-528-1216 | Fax: 1-413-528-0103

Press and other media outlets contact
[email protected]

Editorial Policy

This work is licensed under a 
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,
except where copyright is otherwise reserved.

© 2021 American Institute for Economic Research
Privacy Policy

AIER is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit
registered in the US under EIN: 04-2121305