By Kevin Roche
Dear Mr. Gates:
I have the greatest admiration for the work you performed in building Microsoft into one the world’s premier companies. And I have even more admiration for the tremendous work you have done to improve the health, education and lives of so many poor people around the world. I am, however, puzzled by your suggestion that the entire nation should lock itself down for ten weeks to minimize damage from the coronavirus, regardless of the economic cost. One of the comments you made in regard to your recommendation was that people who die from the coronavirus can’t “undie”, but we can always fix the economy. I might respectfully suggest that this is tone deaf, to say the least, as well as displaying a poor level of reasoning, one that is surprising given your experience and intelligence.
Are not all the jobs that will be lost due to the massive economic decline such a shutdown would create worth something on the balance scale? Surely someone who has delved as deeply as you have into the problems of the poor understands the loss of life and decrement to quality of life that would follow such a significant decline in jobs and economic activity. Those deaths and that damage can’t be undone either. It is hard for me to imagine you don’t appreciate those consequences, but then I have never been a billionaire. And you surely know from all your work on infectious disease that such a course would be largely futile; lockdowns don’t make the virus go away, they just defer its toll, which appears far lower in any event than some initial frightening, but highly speculative, estimates suggested.
I think it might be best for anyone who has the financial resources that you do to just not make any comments about how happy the tens of millions of low and middle-income workers who have lost and will lose their jobs should be in regard to your suggestion. I doubt that you have any appreciation for what daily life is like for these people and what a complete tragedy their lives will be. So please, keep your ideas to yourself unless you develop some greater empathy that allows you to understand how the concept of doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people might be applied here.