As the COVID-19 pandemic entered its third year, the United States was enjoying a protracted stock-market boom and China’s global trade surplus had reached record highs. There is reason to believe these trends will not last: notably, with the U.S. Federal Reserve set to tighten monetary policy in the face of rising inflation, the U.S. stock market has tumbled.

But even if market ebullience or strong exports in the world’s biggest economies were to persist, most people are experiencing hardship and angst. We must not lose sight of that, let alone of the imperative of systemic change.

In responding to the pandemic, policymakers have faced an awful dilemma: keep the economy open and risk more COVID-19 deaths, or impose lockdowns and destroy livelihoods. As the Vanderbilt University economist W. Kip Viscusi points out, one way to simplify the trade-off between the benefits of reducing health risks and the costs of economic dislocations is to “monetize” COVID-19 deaths.