The conversation about the lockdowns when the COVID-19 crisis started was centered on saving lives at the cost of the economy.
This makes sense, since many of those making decisions were epidemiologists and we cannot expect them to fully understand the lockdowns’ impact on the economy and human lives. The problem is that even many economists argued the same thing and completely ignored the harm that the lockdowns would create.
These economists have fallen prey to what Frédéric Bastiat called the “unseen” consequences of a policy. Frédéric Bastiat argued that an “act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause—it is seen. The others unfold in succession—they are not seen: it is well for us, if they are foreseen.” Applied to lockdowns this means that it is easier to see the deaths caused by COVID-19 than to see the deaths caused by lockdowns. In what follows, I provide three arguments on how the economic lockdowns are costing us human lives and will continue to do so long after they end.