Rich Lowry: Rushing economy's reopen after coronavirus would be a big mistake

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An irony of the coronavirus debate is that the more successful lockdowns are in squelching the disease, the more vulnerable they will be to attack as unnecessary in the first place.

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A growing chorus on the right is slamming the shutdowns as an overreaction and agitating to end them. A good example of the genre is an op-ed co-authored by former Education Secretary William Bennett and talk-radio host Seth Leibsohn. It is titled, tendentiously and not very accurately, “Coronavirus Lessons: Fact and Reason vs. Paranoia and Fear.”

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They cite an estimate that the current outbreak will kill 68,000 Americans. Then, they note that about 60,000 people died of the flu in 2017-18. For this, they thunder, we’ve imposed huge economic and social costs on the country?

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This is obviously a deeply flawed way of looking at it.

If we are going to have 60,000 deaths with people not leaving their homes for more than a month, the number of deaths obviously would have been higher — much higher — if everyone had gone about business as usual. We didn’t lock down the country to try to prevent 60,000 deaths; we locked down the country to limit deaths to 60,000 (or whatever the ultimate toll is).

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