Polio Workers Murdered – Not as Open and Shut as You Think

Polio VaccineThere was an astonishing story in the news recently and I read it with my mind already decided on who was in the wrong. It wasn’t until I reached a paragraph buried deeply in the story that I suddenly realized it was not as simple as I first thought.

Basically, the World Health Organization has been running a polio eradication campaign for many years now. Their tremendous success has largely eradicated the crippling disease from the world. There are only three countries left that report cases: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

The situation in Pakistan is that there is a rumor that the polio vaccines are actually a campaign of sterilization conducted by the western world in an attempt to destroy muslims. They also think it is a covert attempt to spy on the Taliban and those who support them.

Before we leap to ridicule lets examine the situation. Remember that in England primarily, but also in the United States, there are many people who refuse to vaccinate because they fear a massive medical conspiracy covering up the supposed connection between vaccines and autism. Secondly, the CIA recently conducted a fake vaccination campaign in Pakistan in an attempt to find Osama Bin Laden.

This is exactly why Libertarians such as myself advocate a non-interference defense strategy. When we go out and try to assassinate our enemies, to attack our enemies, the unexpected consequences hurt us more than our enemies ever could. The hatred that most of the muslim world feels for us was engendered by our behavior in Iran, Egypt, and other dictatorial countries we supported for reasons of national security.

I’m certainly not advocating ignorance. Polio is an awful disease and WHO is doing a magnificent job of stamping it out. The people of Pakistan should demand vaccinations. The Taliban should support the efforts of this organization. The job of government is to serve the people. Polio eradication is objectively good. Murdering health workers is despicable and won’t get you much support with the common person. Many of the brave workers in Pakistan are refusing to stop their efforts despite the murders. That is real courage. That sort of courage will win out in the end when violently trying to destroy our enemies will only create more enemies.

When we help bring water to a village, when we help eradicate a terrible disease, when we improve the lives of others, that is when we will triumph.

Do we have enemies? Yes. Should we defend ourselves? Yes. Is that the way to win the world over to a representative republic style of government? No. We should be a shining example and our fake campaign to eradicate polio was us at our worst. Even if it helped us find Osama Bin Laden it wasn’t worth it. At least in my opinion.

Tell me what you think!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Future Release: The Spear of the Hunt (in conceptual stage)

Science Rocks

Science Week – Modern Medicine

ScienceDay two of my science extravaganza is here and I’m going to talk about modern, western medicine. The reason I think this topic is important is because of how it has affected all our lives. I do not think modern medicine is perfect and some alternative choices have merit but I’m a major proponent of research and modern cures.

I’m going to start it off with a description of a diabetic ward in 1912 Canada. Dr. Frederick Banting, his student Charles Best, and biochemist James Collip used newly purified insulin for the first time. If you can read this and complain about modern medicine … well … I have no words for you.

Children dying from diabetic ketoacidosis were kept in large wards, often with 50 or more patients in a ward, mostly comatose. Grieving family members were often in attendance, awaiting the (until then, inevitable) death.

In one of medicine’s more dramatic moments, Banting, Best, and Collip went from bed to bed, injecting an entire ward with the new purified extract. Before they had reached the last dying child, the first few were awakening from their coma, to the joyous exclamations of their families.

Now I’ll go onto some statistics.

  • In the 18th century Smallpox killed an estimated 400,000 people a year. Today it is eradicated. Thank you, Vaccine Act of 1813 and Louis Pasteur.
  • Maternal death rate was historically around 1%. In modern, western countries it is now around .024%. That’s about 976 more mothers alive per 100,000 births. Thank you, Ignaz Semmelweis and Lawson Tait.
  • In 1952 58,000 cases of polio were reported in the United States resulting in 3,000 deaths and 21,000 cases of mild to disabling paralysis. In 1994 the Americas were declared Polio free. Thank you, World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation.
  • Whooping Cough effects 48 million people worldwide and kills 295,00 people a year. In the 1940 it was reduced to 1 case in 100,000 in the U.S but declining vaccination has produced an increase in cases. Whooping Cough vaccine doesn’t last a lifetime and must be retaken. Recent negative publicity has caused a drop of vaccination rates. Whooping Cough is highly contagious. If a child at your daycare gets it because they aren’t vaccinated you are at risk.
  • Dental disease was a common killer prior to modern dentistry. It’s not easy to find exact statistics because dental disease often led to death in other ways. Diseases of the teeth quickly spread to the heart. With modern dentistry many lives are saved. Thank you, Pierre Fauchard.
  • My sister is cancer free thanks to Trastuzumab, thank you Axel Ullrich and H. Michael Shepard.

As I said at the beginning of the article I’m not completely against non-western medicine where it is shown to be effective. There is some evidence that Acupuncture, Chiropractic, and Massage Therapy can be effective. However, there are tremendous dangers to alternate medicine. Because it’s efficacy is largely unproven it leads to practitioners who are unregulated and prey on ill people desperate for a cure. It is particularly dangerous when used as a substitute, rather than a complement, to regular care.

I don’t really want to get into that debate. What I will say is that the odds are strong that you know someone who is alive and well because of modern, western medicine.

So thank you to all the researchers, assistants, technicians and the rest who are out there who are trying to find cures. Keep up this important work!

Comment, Like, Tweet, Stumble, Digg, or otherwise share if you want to say thank you as well!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist