Which do we save, the economy or ourselves? A recent article tackles some of the issues involved in how we have developed a religion of economy that must be saved while people are left to die. (Yes, Ryder is aware that it is a hyperbolic distinction.) What makes it worse is that our elected leaders (politicians in the government) are not actually leaders, but more like modern tribal chieftains enacting rituals for prosperity: a song and dance for the rain gods, but what happens when a storm hits?
Considering our reactions to Coronavirus quarantine, we need to question why we have people in two camps: the “save the economy, business as usual” camp, and the “stay home and save lives” camp. Kahneman and Haidt have insights into how we are not logical creatures and are mostly controlled by emotion and/or heuristic decision making. Thus it makes sense that people will end up in whatever camp lowers their anxiety, even at the cost of human life.
There is also a history of risk for belief and economics built into humans. America was founded (in part) on religious belief in the face of authority, and if you consider the economy to be a religion, and politicians to be priests, you can see the pattern of saving “the god” or “faith” as a decision more vital than saving the worshiper or supplicant, not to mention the attitude towards the non-believer. Risking not only your life, but that of your loved ones, for prosperity and ideological belief systems is historically human, and a reminder of what happens to our species and values under stress.
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