As an increasingly vaccinated world emerges from lockdowns,some people argue restrictions did not go far enough; others maintain the attempted cures have been worse than the disease. One reason for these conflicting views is that the answer depends on both facts and values. Government policies were often guided by scientific findings to reduce the spread of the virus and the resulting illnesses and deaths.
Because the benefits and costs of policies unfold over time in ways that produce different winners and losers, it’s simply hard to arrive at a consensus on what benefits to rank first and what costs are worth incurring. Ultimately, that’s why there will never be a definitive answer on whether the country’s lockdowns were “worth it.” The costs and benefits can be clarified, but not measured completely. And values come into play: How many lives were saved can never be exactly equated with how many children’s development suffered. Data can only bring society some of the answers. The rest we have to decide for ourselves.