The recovery debate, if it may be called that, has begun.  And, though there are many views, two currently prevail.

The first might be labeled Crash and Burn.  The second might be called Selective Triage.

Crash and Burn is horizontal and ubiquitous.  It is roughly what we, at least in America, are doing now.  Shut it down.  Lock the doors.  Lock up the villages and entire cities.  Lock up California.  Shelter in place.  Hoarding is permitted.  Devil take the hindmost.

Crash and Burn anticipates mass small business failures and high unemployment until we get control of the plague, and that may be twelve to eighteen months from now.

America, and hopefully the world, will survive, but will it look like America before the plague or will it be another country.

After the horizontal shut down of Crash and Burn, a small second-thought backlash is emerging.  Selective Triage says, wait a minute.  We don’t need to burn the place down to save it.  The plague is selective.  Protect the vulnerable old folks (ahem) and those otherwise incapacitated.  But send the strongest and most resilient back to work, with masks and gloves when required, but keep those factories, small businesses, schools, and other institutions open.

Proponents of Selective Triage rely on two data points: recovery rates after infection are high, higher than with previous viruses; and once infected, the victim does not experience a recurrence.  This latter point has yet to be clinically proved it seems, though many believe it.

Those of us who studied philosophy rather than biology find ourselves in a wilderness of mirrors, dependent on whichever virologist or epidemiologist has been interviewed most recently.

There is reason to suspect that prolonged Crash and Burn isolation will have as yet unknown repercussions, certainly financially, but also psychologically.  We were not meant to isolate ourselves with one, two, or three family members however close we may be to them.  It is a prescription for depression among other things.

We may see, at the least, a serious rise in already high levels of divorce.  Privacy and distance are required even for those with long relationships.

Philosophy students also tended not to delve into high economics.  But it does not require a Ph.D. in that subject to imagine a devastated national economy eighteen months from now.  Tens of thousands of small businesses shuttered and employees scattered and on permanent public assistance of some kind.  Entire small business sectors could literally disappear.

The newly minted “War President”, self-commissioned to command despite those pesky bone spurs, and his Party will look out for the Fortune 500 but beyond that you are on your own.  Good old “trickle down” has found a new life.  Cruise lines will get billions, despite choosing a foreign flag to avoid U.S. taxes.  Airlines for sure.  Hotels and resorts also, including one chain near and dear to the president and his family.

The “Swamp” will not be drained for a long while, but it will get swampier.

With close to two trillion on the table, and more where that came from, the Fortune 500 will find back doors to the Treasury Department to use that free money to buy back stock and thus ensure even greater wealth.

How is it that wealth always finds ways to replicate wealth even during the direst of plagues.

Among the specialists in epidemiology it would be interesting to know how many favor the Selective Triage idea, that is care for the elderly (ahem) but let the healthy go back to work and dodge the bullets.  It does not seem a judgement that ignorant people like philosophers should make.

Fasten your seatbelts, but don’t let the “War President” deal the cards.

And all of you, do take care of yourselves.  The elderly need you around.



7 Responses to “Crash and Burn or Selective Triage”

  1. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    America before the plague didn’t compel emulation.

    I’m hoping for a renaissance, of sorts. If there is a presidential election. Sometime, in the foreseeable future. If not, then, as problems go, I’d say we’ve got one here.

    Though, it all bodes well for universal basic income. Is Andrew Yang still around? 🙂

    In the meantime, I say let’s continue with Crash and Burn (a favourite tune, in fact) as a kind of warning against a certain set of anti-Enlightenment practices all around. Which might encourage new and improved ways of living on this planet, not to mention philisophical outlooks.

    Sadly, it didn’t have to be this way.


    Every word here from our Senator is worth a thoughtful considering of it. As is the response from our Elizabeth.

    I think we need the first strategy without the element, misplaced by some, of supposed, devil take the hindmost.We can in a sense, protect most, if radical.

    I and many, certainly I reckon, Elizabeth, Andrew Yang, think we need two complimentary, similar, things rather than two very, different, ways.

    First a viable Universal basic income, in each democracy or come to think of it dictatorship, also.

    Second, incentives to work in areas of need. Public service the most important. Key industry or agriculture the next.

    The first requires us to pay it at a reasonable and living wage, even if part time wage.

    The second requires us to prioritise greener, holistic methods.

    I am a vegetarian, into organic too. The days of unhealthy, unbalanced living with animals, in markets, and that means in the USA to, are over. Te EU standards of food production are better than most, certainly those of Australia, Canada better too, than in the USA.

    The future is Green, though not always as much of the views of Greta. The planet is not as in danger as the people on it regardless of the mess of the planet. No climate change, but lots of viruses, is as likely, if we carry on only worrying about climate change, we need to recognise that.

    Two alternatives? Not sure. Two possibilities.Who knows.

  3. Neil McCarthy Says:

    Gov. Cuomo, who is currently receiving high marks, spoke today about the need to in effect combine approaches with, in his words, a “refined” public health and safety protocol that allows us to plan for economic rejuvenation.

    The plan doesn’t replace the current demand — which is immediate or very near term, i.e., 14 days, here in NY — for 140,000 hospital beds, 30,000 ventilators, and untold ammounts of personally protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers (i.e., masks, gowns and shields), all of which is or will be needed to treat the anticipated patient numbers here in NY, which now has over 25,000 with the virus.

    To satisfy that demand will almost inevitably require that the federal government (i) release its stockpile of ventilators and (ii) force companies to manufacture equipment by exercising its powers under the Defense Production Act.

    The larger refined plan, which then allows economic rejuvenation to at least begin, requires widespread testing to determine who has had the virus but is recovered, and assessing the efficacy of plasma based therapies that draw anti-bodies from the recovered to be used to inoculate others. If we can identify the population that is clearly not at risk or have treatments to make people so, then at least those people can go back to work.

    My own view is that this combined approach may be the way to go. It doesn’t cruelly sacrifice the lives of th elderly, including my mother, on the altar of greed, but it rationally defines a path by which we can utimately exit Crash and Burn. And in view of the fact that even this refined approach will take time, the amount of the required Keynesian stimulus will have to be orders of magnitude higher than what is currenty on order. Brandeis Prof. Robert Kuttner estimates the need at 25-30% of GDP (or about $8 trillion).

    Finally, for any interested in how and why Andrew Cuomo’s star has risen of late, my views on this are developed and set out in a recent post, “Queen of Corona”, which you can find if you wish at

  4. Elizabeth Miller Says:


    You are pointing out our need to find balance if we wish to remain on this planet and not be compelled to find another world. I couldn’t agree more!

  5. Elizabeth Miller Says:


    I just read your excellent piece on Governor Cuomo. Especially that last bit about number crunching! I, too, have been following the governor’s press conferences and have been impressed. I like his style.

    But, I must disagree that he can’t be funny. He may not be able to tell a joke but, he and his brother have had me laughing out loud whenever he’s been on Cuomo Prime Time. 🙂


    Fine stuff from Neil and Elizabeth thanks

  7. Paul G Says:


    Imagine our dangerously ignorant president whose primary duty under our Constitution is to keep us safe and free (first do no harm) – in the midst of our war with a universally invisible enemy – now giving China the economic middle finger?

    That’s exactly what’s likely to occur in an unprecedented phone link-up between the WH and China today as Murdoch’s president puts his re-election instincts first:

Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.