Coronavirus. The crisis is already eroding the thin varnish of civilization. Swiss media are discussing how much a human life may cost.
Originally published by Ajour Magazine. Translated by Enough 14.
Once again, the spine-chilling coldness of bourgeois society speaks through Roger Köppel. “How much may a human life cost?” he asks from his editorial chair out into the world. “Sinister questions” is the title of his editorial. But you don’t really buy that he really thinks it’s sinister.
“Switzerland must once again learn to live with the sinister alternatives – and how to deal with them,” Köppel continues. A rogue who sees the meaningful “again” as a reminder of eugenic practices and Malthusian population policy. After all, it is precisely the lives of those people who have worked for many years that are being negotiated here, and who are not really allowed to enjoy the unproductive rest.
The Sunday edition of the NZZ asks already in the title of an article practically word for word like Köppel: “How much money may a human life cost? But in the newspaper this is not a ” sinister” question, but only a “delicate” one. Something like when someone asks if you put on a little weight over the holidays.
The former leading journal of economic liberalism solves the breach of civilising standards a little more elegantly than Köppel. Thus one lets the Federal Court speak: A few years ago, in a ruling on very expensive drugs, the court ruled that up to 100,000 francs per year of saved life was appropriate.
The NZZ does not stop there. It interviews a so-called health economist and then writes: “Subordinating everything to the goal of preventing as many deaths as possible from the virus has a bad cost-benefit ratio – that is the pure teaching of health economics. But what do you do with it? How do you reduce the cost per life?” Even if the journalists are only reproducing here, the question is now in the living rooms of their readers – in the indicative, in the so-called reality form.
A Zurich professor of economics whose name is Joachim Voth finally asks frankly in an interview with the Handelszeitung: “How long can one politically enforce the fact that 90 percent of the population who are not at risk of health problems and who create 100 percent of the added value must stay at home to protect the remaining 10 percent? What’s important in this consideration is the word “added value”, which Voth uses to mark what he considers to be crucial.
Apart from the medical ignorance of the economist, this is exactly the understanding of the world that is typical for the fans of capitalist society: the “economy” as that independent process, which it actually is, is treated as a deity. Human lives are sacrificed to it again and again. That now simply pushes into consciousness. In contrast to discussions about work safety, for example, where this circumstance is covered up with all kinds of incantations.
The question negotiated by NZZ, Weltwoche and Handelszeitung would have to be asked the other way round: What kind of crazy idea is it to produce products in which people are not the most important thing regardless of their role?
Of course: medicines, food, almost everything around us must be produced in the economic process. But in these things the god of profit resides today, who tolerates no other gods besides himself. Therefore, it is not about the practical supply of medicines, but about “added value” and similarly harmless sounding cruelties. How the supply of medicines can be guaranteed would be another question that should not be calculated in money and costs.
Instead, the public debaters are keen to ensure that the economy can continue to function profitably: British journalist Jeremy Warner recently told Metro magazine in a microphone: “From a totally uninterested economic perspective, Covid-19 could even prove slightly beneficial in the long run by killing disproportionately many elderly relatives”.
It is precisely this “uninterested” perspective that is not interested in people, but in their capitalist economy. Whoever wants to negotiate such a thing never wants to negotiate his own life. One should ask these people about their bank account balance and source of income. Either they have an interest in profitable business or they have studied economics for far too long.
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