Written By: Judy Laut
Several economists have alluded that saving lives is not as important as saving the economy. One of those economists, Sean Snaith, has stated “…there are eight billion people in the world, so the number of deaths from the [Corona] virus, as bad as it has been, does not justify devastating the economy…” (Hacket, 2020) Interestingly enough, the economist making these ethically-debatable claims has also stated that there needs to be a cost-benefit analysis to support his accusations (which hasn’t been done yet). Why would Sean Snaith, Ph.D., the director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting and a nationally recognized economist in the field of business and economic forecasting, be willing to make such claims without taking the necessary steps to support his theory? Perhaps Dr. Snaith is counting his chickens before they hatch, so to say. He is pushing for social change based on his beliefs without having all of the information that he himself describes as necessary. I think it’s a fair assessment that Dr. Snaith as well as those economists that share his beliefs and have come to similar conclusions are participating in activist research, at least certain aspects of it.
“Activist research goes beyond participatory research in that the researcher is not only vested in the outcome of the research, but may be pushing a certain value set through their research.” (Nelson) Dr. Snaith has already shown that he has a bias towards believing that lost lives do not justify the devastation of the economy. This bias is evident as Dr. Snaith has already publicly announced his findings and beliefs without completing his research. Snaith is directly contradicting the findings of health experts who say that “reopening commerce too soon could lead to a resurgence in cases.” (Hacket, 2020) The biases between the health experts and economists can be seen in their contradicting research findings and beliefs on how society should proceed. The health experts are concerned about health and the economists are concerned about the economy and the research from both groups support their corresponding values and biases towards certain outcomes. The contradicting research findings raises major ethical concerns specifically when those findings are publicized without completing all research and have the potential of contributing to the loss of life.
It may not have directly been Dr. Snaith who contributed to the many protests that have been seen, specifically in Madison, Wisconsin, but there is no doubt that his value set and the value set of economists with similar findings have most definitely contributed. Thousands of people protested and rallied the shelter in place order, all in close proximity and all without face masks. The protesters held similar beliefs as Snaith and wielded “… signs that said “All Workers Are Essential” and “Death … is preferable to communism.”( Beck & Glauber, 2020) Ironically, “The same day as the protest, Wisconsin saw its highest daily increase in confirmed positive cases of the virus – 304.” (Beck & Glauber, 2020)
I find Dr. Snaith’s actions deplorable and completely unethical regardless of his findings. At no point should the loss of life be deemed less important than a declining economy. I think that scientists, health experts, economists, psychologists, and researchers in all areas owe it to society and their field of study to not only complete all necessary steps to confirm or deny their hypothesis when conducting research but to also refrain from publicly publishing their findings that are not peer-reviewed and that may contribute to the loss of life and the spread of an uncontrollable, untreatable virus.
Beck, M., & Glauber, B. (2020, April 24). Thousands gather at Wisconsin state
Capitol to protest coronavirus restrictions. Retrieved April 26, 2020, from
Hackett, D. (2020, April 24). Is an Economic Shutdown Worse Than COVID-19?
A State Economist Weighs In. Retrieved April 26, 2020, from
Nelson, A. (N.D.) Lesson 13: Social Change/ Participatory Research – Lesson
Overview [Notes]. Retrieved from