Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Loren Elliott/Getty Images

Lives are Priceless

Why restoring the status quo to preserve profits is morally wrong.

On Tuesday, March 24th, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick made headlines for his controversial comments regarding whether or not it is worth reopening businesses that have closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in the coming weeks at the expense of the safety of senior citizens and other high-risk individuals. Patrick argued that he is “not living in fear of COVID-19.” Rather, he fears “what’s happening to this country.”

In a discussion with anchor Tucker Carlson of Fox News, Patrick, who is nearly 70 himself, stated that he believes that seniors would be willing to put their lives in danger to maintain the status quo in the United States: “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ If that’s the exchange, I’m all in. Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.” Patrick, like many others, is concerned with the ongoing downward spiral of the United States’ economy that has occurred as a result of the pandemic and the corresponding shutdown of various businesses and the quarantine of the employees and consumers on which they depend. Responding to this issue in particular, Patrick was clear that “we’re having an economic collapse,” but that President Trump’s focus on the economy earlier that week had “lifted” his heart. 

Not everyone shares Lieutenant Governor Patrick’s views about the expendability of the nation’s seniors. The backlash came both from the general population, with #NotDying4WallStreet trending on Twitter, and from other governmental officials, such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who tweeted, “My mother is not expendable. We will not put a dollar figure on human life.” Cuomo’s statement is in accordance with the view of this issue expressed in the Torah. Numbers chapter 35 verse 31 states that monetary compensation should not be accepted as restitution for a murder. The moral of this line is that life is priceless, and as such, no amount of money is equivalent in value to a human life. Choosing to restore business as usual, prioritizing stimulating the economy over saving lives, stands at odds with this commandment and the moral obligation of government officials to protect the citizens they represent. 

Unfortunately, the views of government officials like Lieutenant Governor Patrick are having a substantial impact on the effectiveness of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In his state of Texas, for example, only 11,000 people have been tested for the virus, compared to over 11,000 daily in Cuomo’s state of New York.

Mayor of Austin, Texas Steve Adler expressed his dissatisfaction with the actions of the state and federal government: “We could do a really good job of this in Austin, and if we’re the only ones who do a good job it’s not going to work.” Texas is certainly not the only state that is not treating the disease with the seriousness many believe it deserves, with the rapid and strong response of states like New York being more of an exception than the rule.

As the United States attempts to navigate through uncharted territory, it is important to keep in mind what matters most and avoid making rash decisions that would put lives at risk. The economy and other American institutions may suffer, but if it means keeping more people safe, the nation needs to make the right decision and sacrifice profits, not lives. 

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Justin Diament is a senior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, N.J. He is a staff writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

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