Amid the current pandemic many governments imposed heavy social restrictions in an attempt to flatten the curve and thereby save lives, and those restrictions take their toll on the economies. For instance, the US sees an order of magnitude rise in the weekly rate of applications for unemployment benefits.
Thinking about that, I eventually found myself pondering what decisions would have been taken by governments if the virus were less deadlier than it is. That is, what if the expected number of saved lives due to the imposed restrictions were 2, 4, 10, or 100 times lower? Clearly, no government will bother messing with the economy just to save a couple of lives, so there must be some threshold warranting a drastic intervention, but what is that threshold?
And that, in turn, has led me to a fundamental question, the one stated in the title of my post. I have no idea how governments compare the incomparable - lives and money - in their decision-making processes. I guess governments have to make such comparisons pretty often, because, for instance, speed limits are a kind of compromise between saving people's lives and saving people's time, and time is money. Governments routinely decide on speed limits, aircraft safety standards, and so on. And each time they weigh lives against money. How do they do that, in general? How much money is my life worth from the government's standpoint?
UPDATE: I'd like to make two clarifications to make it clear what I am asking about:
@Renard says, "Part of the picture here is that unemployment and business failure increases mortality on its own." That's an important point that warrants clarifying my question, and I'd like to quote @preferred_anon, who perfectly put what I mean to ask: "In both scenarios, people die - and in both scenarios, money is lost. But the number of people and the amount of money in each situation is different. It's easy to compare lives for lives or money for money (if you simplify to say all lives are equal). But once you've done that, there will (generally) be a deficit of money on one side, and of lives on the other. And that's what the OP is asking for."
I understand that politicians see everything through the prism of their own career prospects, reelection chances, and personal goals, and I do not mean to ask how that prism works. Rather, I'm curious to learn fundamental principles to choose between lives and money. Let's suppose the government of a nation has to choose between two scenarios and is presented with clear and reliable figures as to how much money and how many lives will be lost in each of the two scenarios. The figures are publicly available, and the whole nation is waiting to see which decision will be taken by the government and how it will explain it. Are there any fundamental principles the government can refer to when explaining its decision to the nation? Are there any fundamental principles the rightness of the decision can be judged by? What is the dominating view on such a philosophic matter among political experts?