Less than 24 hours after California governor Gavin Newsom closed ‘non-essential’ businesses and ordered Californians to stay inside to avoid spreading the coronavirus, New York governor Andrew Cuomo followed suit. ‘This is about saving lives,’ Cuomo said during a press conference on Friday. ‘If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.’

Cuomo’s assertion that saving ‘just one life’ justifies an economic shutdown raises questions that have not been acknowledged, much less answered, as public officials across the country compete to impose ever more draconian anti-virus measures:

  • Is there any limit to the damage we are willing inflict on the world economy to mitigate the infection?
  • What are the benefits of each new commerce-killing measure and how do they compare to the costs?
  • What are the criteria for declaring success in the coronavirus fight and who decides whether they have been met?