“Germs and the City”

“Public health” (in the literal sense) now seems to be one thing, and–occasional lurid headlines notwithstanding–not a particularly important one, while “health care” is quite another.

We will bitterly regret this shift, and probably sooner rather than later. As another Victorian might have predicted–he published a book on the subject in 1859–germs have evolved to exploit our new weakness. Public authorities are ponderous and slow; the new germs are nimble and fast. Drug regulators are paralyzed by the knowledge that error is politically lethal; the new germs make genetic error–constant mutation–the key to their survival. The new germs don’t have to be smarter than our scientists, just faster than our lawyers. The demise of cholera, one could say, has been one of the great antisocial developments of modern times.

Germs and the City,” by Peter Huber, City Journal, Spring 2007

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