Conflict of Interest

Conflict of Interest April 24, 2020

 A conflict of interest occurs when a person’s vested interests raise a question of whether their actions, judgment, and/or decision-making can be unbiased. 

My wife says I need to write this. You will see why I have been reluctant. I told her that I cannot see how to keep it from sounding self-serving. I finally decided to give it a try.

Trump, and a lot of other people have said that it is time to “reopen” the economy; time for people to go back to work. Some still say that the virus is a hoax, or at best, an exaggerated problem that is being used as an excuse by Democrats and other enemies of Trump to torpedo the economy and harm his chances for re-election in November.

Some opponents of the shutdown take a slightly higher road, claiming that the harm done by the shutdown far exceeds the danger to most people. They compare it to past flu epidemics and say that it’s no worse, and our overreaction is an example of “the cure being worse than the disease.” I am not going to argue the numbers here. They have been beaten to death, and most people’s views on this are richly colored by confirmation bias, motivated by conflict-of-interest.

Instead, I am going to give you a view from our perspective. We are retired, collecting Social Security and a retirement check from my former employer, so our income stream is not threatened. But we are in our eighties, so we are at higher risk than younger people, even though we are in good health for our age. So, it should not be surprising that we favor a continuation of the economic shutdown. The more people mix, the more the disease will spread, and a higher infection rate in the population threatens us when we are forced to venture out to buy food or other essentials. We are limiting those outings as much as we can, but soon I will have to roll the dice again. The refrigerator is getting empty. It has been more than a week since we have been in any public venue where we could be exposed to the virus. Even though the stores are diligent in providing customers with enough space to maintain “social distance,” there is still some risk. The risk is never zero. All we can do is minimize it. Clearly, we seniors have a conflict of interest in advocating continuation of the shutdown.

Some people here on this blog…and I will not mention names…have suggested that “seniors are gonna die pretty soon anyway,” so it’s no big deal if the virus speeds up the process a little. They say we should not be selfish about this and cause harm to younger people who are raising families, trying to make rent or house payments, etc. We should “suck it up” and accept our fate. Is that reasonable? It is certainly self-serving for younger people to feel that way. They too have a conflict of interest.

But It raises the question: How much do younger people owe to older generations? We provided for those younger people, raised them, paid for their education, helped them get started on careers, establish their financial base, etc. But that was then, and this is now. Are we entitled to a long old age because of our past actions?

It is the wrong question, and a false dichotomy, because the answer is not yes or no. The right question is how much do they owe us? How much should they sacrifice to limit threats that could cut our life short? And that, dear reader, is not a simple question to answer. The “right” answer for any individual depends on many interrelated factors, but one thing is abundantly clear:

We all have a dog in this hunt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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