By Raymond Ibrahim
If lives suddenly matter, what about this, that, and the other thing?
The official reason for the unprecedented closure of much of the United States in response to COVID-19 is that lives matter. Indeed, they apparently matter so much that no sacrifice is too great—neither to your freedom nor to the economy—if it can save even one life from the virus.
Surely this is a noble sentiment; and I for one do not mean to argue against it.
But it also begs the question: where was this altruistic concern before—when the lives of tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans were and continue to be needlessly sacrificed, ironically, in the name of freedom and economics?
Consider the three leading causes of preventable deaths in the US: about 480,000 Americans die from smoking (some from secondhand), 300,000 die from obesity, and 88,000 die from alcohol, every single year.
Together with the other leading causes of preventable deaths in the US—such as drugs and motor vehicle accidents—this means that about a million American lives are needlessly lost every single year, mostly from tobacco, followed by overeating and alcohol.
Yet this hasn’t changed a thing; they are all legal. Why? Because of freedom and economics. You see, it’s your American right to smoke, drink, and overeat—just as it is the tobacco, alcohol, food and drug companies’ right to profit from it.
Despite the million American lives lost every year from these vices—and the fact that most of them died more from addiction than freedom—the government has done essentially nothing about it, aside from requiring warning labels on tobacco and alcohol products. And you can’t really blame it; after all, we’re adults here, and freedom is a big premium in America.
But then COVID-19 came, and suddenly our elected officials have seen the light; suddenly no sacrifice is too great if it can save lives.
It must therefore logically follow that our suddenly enlightened betters will surely take measures and enact laws to save the exponentially greater number of American lives needlessly lost every single year—especially from the top three leading causes of preventable deaths, tobacco, overeating, and alcohol—right? (By the way, I’m not personally calling for such bans but rather showing how consistent thinking—if sincere—works.)
To reiterate, COVID-19 has clearly ushered in a new era of appreciation for human lives: citing your freedom or the economy to justify any potentially dangerous activities—such as playing ball with your 6-year-old daughter—appears to be out for the indefinite future, since lives matter.
As such, surely our leaders will soon be enacting laws to combat America’s far more fatal activities; and, until such time, surely the newsrooms will keep these issues at front and center, including by daily reporting the exact number of deaths caused by America’s three leading causes of preventable deaths—just as they are doing now with the fourth leading cause, infectious disease, currently in the guise of coronavirus.
Or have I missed something here?
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