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John Authers

Can You Handle Herd Immunity? Ask These Philosophers

The human cost of reaching a point of immunity should give us pause.

John Locke, Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau walk into a bar ...

John Locke, Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau walk into a bar ...

Sources: Hulton Archive/Getty Images and Archive Photos/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekend. We have a special Points of Return today, but rest assured that there is nothing about markets or investment in it. Instead, I hope you’ll be interested in my latest essay on the moral dilemmas raised by the coronavirus. The idea of “herd immunity” through infection, ruled out almost everywhere six months ago, is now under serious consideration in capitals across the world. It's a hugely complicated scientific issue, but it also poses an unavoidable moral dilemma. I hope what follows will help to frame that moral question and make it easier for all of us to participate in a very difficult debate. This is the fourth essay in a series that has been coming out at roughly two-month intervals since the outbreak of the pandemic. To get the newsletter delivered directly to your inbox, sign up here.

Six months ago, populations across the world acquiesced, with minimal debate, to lockdowns to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Amid confusion and horrifying death tolls, the default position was to protect the elderly and minimize loss of life.