Is the cure worse than the disease?


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"We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself!"

That was President Donald Trump, this week, explaining why he was thinking about lifting coronavirus guidelines earlier than public-health experts recommended. The "cure," in this case, is social distancing, and the mass economic stoppage it forces. The problem, of course, is COVID-19, and the millions of deaths it could cause.

This is a debate that needs to be taken seriously. Slowing coronavirus will impose real costs, and immense suffering, on society. Are those costs worth it? This is the most important public policy question right now. And if the discussion isn't had well, then it will be had, as we're already seeing, poorly, and dangerously.

I wanted to take up this question from two different angles. The first dimension is economic: Are we actually facing a choice between lives and economic growth? If we ceased social distancing, could we sustain a normal economy amidst a raging virus? Jason Furman, professor of the practice of economic policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and President Obama's former chief economist, joins me for that discussion.

But the economy isn't everything. What is a moral framework we can us when faced with this kind of question? So, in the second half of this show, I talk to Dr. Ruth Faden, the founder of the Berman Institute for Bioethics at Johns Hopkins.

And then, at the end, I offer some thoughts on my own on the frightening moment we're living through, and the kind of political and social leadership it demands.

Confused about coronavirus? Here’s a list of the articles, papers, and podcasts we’ve found most useful.

New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (


Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld

Researcher - Roge Karma

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