Christ the Physician Walks the Wards

Professor Carole Rawcliffe

This week our Newman Lecture from UEA is by Carole Rawcliffe of UEA. Here is part of her biography:

Carole Rawcliffe was an editor on the History of Parliament Trust (1979-92) before becoming a Senior Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at UEA (1992-7). She was made Reader in the History of Medicine (1997-2002) and Professor of Medieval History (2002).

Her research focuses upon the theory and practice of medicine in medieval England, with particular emphasis upon hospitals, the interconnection between healing and religion, and urban health.  As editor of The History of Norwich (2004), she maintains an interest in the East Anglian region, and has written extensively on its medical provision.  Her most recent book, Leprosy in Medieval England (2006), is a study of medieval responses to disease.  She is currently investigating concepts of health and welfare before the Reformation.

Her full biography is here.

I found this one particularly interesting, especially when I contemplated how few of our medical people even believe in God anymore,let alone that  He will help in particular cases. of course, that hit close to home with me, since I have seen His work, when all of our skilled people had given up.

You’ll also note that this week Professor Charmley has provided us with the visual aids as well. Actually there is a Storify story linked at the end of the article, I simply could not get it to embed, so I compromised.

Here’s Dr. Rawcliffe

And here is a slide show of the visual aids to watch while you listen. I am afraid the may have gotten somewhat jumbled. Sorry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

The Telegraph and Peter Oborne

OK, I heard that, “What’s this still another British story? I thought this was a Nebraska blog.”

Well, yeah it is but, this has meaning for us too. In his statement here from Guido Fawkes, Peter Oborne tells us why he quit The Telegraph

Five years ago I was invited to become the chief political commentator of the Telegraph. It was a job I was very proud to accept. The Telegraph has long been the most important conservative-leaning newspaper in Britain, admired as much for its integrity as for its superb news coverage. When I joined the Telegraph had just broken the MPs’ expenses scandal, the most important political scoop of the 21st century.

I was very conscious that I was joining a formidable tradition of political commentary. I spent my summer holiday before taking up my duties as columnist reading the essays of the great Peter Utley, edited by Charles Moore and Simon Heffer, two other masters of the art.

No one has ever expressed quite as well as Utley the quiet decency and pragmatism of British conservatism. The Mail is raucous and populist, while the Times is proud to swing with the wind as the voice of the official class. The Telegraph stood in a different tradition. It is read by the nation as a whole, not just by the City and Westminster. It is confident of its own values. It has long been famous for the accuracy of its news reporting. I imagine its readers to be country solicitors, struggling small businessmen, harassed second secretaries in foreign embassies, schoolteachers, military folk, farmers—decent people with a stake in the country.

My grandfather, Lt Col Tom Oborne DSO, had been a Telegraph reader. He was also a churchwarden and played a role in the Petersfield Conservative Association. He had a special rack on the breakfast table and would read the paper carefully over his bacon and eggs, devoting special attention to the leaders. I often thought about my grandfather when I wrote my Telegraph columns.

That is, I think, pretty close to ground truth. I also have found as I suspect many of you have that the Telegraph has (or maybe had) the best and most objective coverage available of US politics. I started reading it online when it became obvious that the US media had become the propaganda wing of the Obama campaign back in 2007. It was a good, decent, reasonably objective newspaper, although a bit too left-wing by American standards. I suspect it’s something I share with most of my British friends. I too have noticed that it has been changing.

For the last 12 months matters have got much, much worse. The foreign desk—magnificent under the leadership of David Munk and David Wastell—has been decimated. As all reporters are aware, no newspaper can operate without skilled sub-editors. Half of these have been sacked, and the chief sub, Richard Oliver, has left.

Solecisms, unthinkable until very recently, are now commonplace. Recently readers were introduced to someone called the Duke of Wessex. Prince Edward is the Earl of Wessex. There was a front page story about deer-hunting. It was actually about deer-stalking, a completely different activity. Obviously the management don’t care about nice distinctions like this. But the readers do, and the Telegraph took great care to get these things right until very recently.

The arrival of Mr Seiken coincided with the arrival of the click culture. Stories seemed no longer judged by their importance, accuracy or appeal to those who actually bought the paper. The more important measure appeared to be the number of online visits. On 22 September Telegraph online ran a story about a woman with three breasts. One despairing executive told me that it was known this was false even before the story was published. I have no doubt it was published in order to generate online traffic, at which it may have succeeded. I am not saying that online traffic is unimportant, but over the long term, however, such episodes inflict incalculable damage on the reputation of the paper.

And that is important, it is quite easy to lose the trust of people like me, and I suspect like the normal British Telegraph reader as well, because we are in essence, the same clientele. Conservative, yes, but owing a lot to our Whig ancestry. And almost all of us believe that” “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’ It’s going to be difficult to regain our trust, I suspect.

A lot of electrons have been disturbed in relation to the HSBC mess in the UK, and Mr. Oborne speaks of it at some length, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself, I haven’t been paying much attention to it. But I will say this, the combination of international banking and government (either UK or US) is about as close as you can come to a legal (not moral) criminal conspiracy. if we don’t get some serious curbs put on these guys, and I’m not talking about regulations written with the ‘help’ of the banksters, I’m talking about serious criminal indictments, we may come to think of the 1930s as the good old days.

 

She has a point, although there are some mostly conservative libertarians, and acolytes of the Austrian school of economics. More, many more are needed.

This turned up in my twitter feed on Wednesday afternoon, while I have no corroboration, I have few doubts either.

Now do understand I have no more information than anyone else, it could be just a squabble between a columnist and his employer. But I don’t think so, and if I did I still would be very cautious about what I believe.

In a related matter, also having to do with press honesty, have you seen Sharyl Attkisson’s TEDx talk? Do watch, you need to know this stuff.

 

The Times, They are a Changin': As Usual

A few days ago, John O. Mcginnis, writing in The Online Library of Law and Liberty, had some refuting thoughts to Leon Wieseltier’s polemic in the NY Times Book Review.

It starts this way:

Old Complaints about New Technology

In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review Leon Wieseltier has polemicized against the digital age. While beautifully written, its major propositions are either wrong or not wholly coherent.  All have been heard before in previous ages of technological change. While it is difficult to isolate all the sources of Wieseltier’s distemper, here are four in ascending order of their claim to be taken seriously.

1. Wieseltier claims that “the greatest thugs in the history of the cultural industry” (by which he means Amazon and the like) have destroyed bookstores and record shops. Similarly, journalists now earn less money because of competition from digital platforms. These complaints are the whining of producers displaced by competition that helps consumers. […]

Wieseltier’s complaint resembles nothing so much as those of French publishers of the late eighteenth century who complained to the National Assembly about competitors with cheaper means of production:

We request, sir, that you glance over it and lend all your influence to our demands. From these abuses of the freedom  of the press, yet greater abuses have resulted. Countless persons who can barely read have established and maintain shops in every quarter of the capital, hanging over their door their name and the title of Bookseller, which they have no scruple about usurping. We dare to hope, sir, . . . the National Assembly will take the book trade in hand . . . in view of the abuses and thefts as well as the sale of bad books with which France will soon be infected if everyone is free to do business as a bookseller.

Old Complaints about New Technology | Online Library of Law & Liberty.

He goes on to discuss Wieseltier’s apparent ignorance of the definitions of information, data, knowledge, and hypothesis, and perhaps even opinion. He also does a fair amount of complaining about economists, blaming them for quantifying everything in sight. In history I’m a bit sympathetic to the view but I believe it’s not due to the fact that a lot of things have been quantifiable, it’s due to the fact that a lot of historians wouldn’t know a narrative if it bit them on their backside. They’re just lousy writers, and we’re the poorer for it.

He also asserts that ‘Global Competiveness’ shouldn’t be the highest value of humanity. Well, he’s right and that’s the wonder of our communication systems; we can handle much more information much more efficiently, and thus do more in less time than ever before. That some people lose sight of the fact that this is not the highest role of humanity is essentially irrelevant. It’s also something that each generation has to learn for itself, to protect itself.

McGinnis ends with this:

It is a confusion to claim that the better knowledge offered by natural science or the greater leisure made possible by markets and technology mean that the enduring issues of honor, of responsibility, of love for others disappear. The nineteenth century Romantic Rebellion against the rise of natural science was wrong about many things, but it was right about this.  Even as our technology becomes more powerful, we can continue to “wander lonely as clouds.” Our inner life and moral choices are ever billowing and not able to be captured by digitization, however capacious the cloud of computation becomes.

I  think he is exactly right about that. All of these technologies are tools, to extend man’s power, knowledge, and strength. Like all tools, going back to fire, itself, they can be used for good or ill. And so the question becomes:

How will you use them?

 

Green Energy, Rent Seeking, Corporatism, and Unintended Consequences

English: Vogtle nuclear power station Cooling ...

English: Vogtle nuclear power station Cooling Towers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Georgia Power is building a nuclear power plant. That would be good if they foresaw making a legitimate profit from it. It doesn’t sound like it.

Georgia Power says the Vogtle project creates lots of jobs and buys lot of building materials.  The same could be said about the construction of a large pyramid. The question should be about the value of the costly project verses other things that might have used the labor and materials.

So how does a society choose between alternative uses of resources? Under market conditions with unhampered price signals, consumers decide with their spending what uses should be made of resources.

That’s not how the decision to build the Vogtle nuclear plant was made. Instead, the drivers were lobbying on the state and federal level for special government favors that would never be granted voluntarily by consumers. The academic term for this is rent-seeking; the more everyday term is cronyism.

Given all the special treatment from government for nuclear plants, it is doubtful they could be built under market conditions. Natural gas and coal, with far less up-front costs and competitive variable costs, are the capacity-of-choice for competitive markets.

Georgia Cronyism: DSM, Nuclear Plague Public Service Commission – Master Resource.

That’s pretty much what always seems to happen when things are built for political purposes.


history-image5In a somewhat different case, I note that there is a proposal for developing an entire straw pellet power plant and a surrounding roughly 50 acres site in Norwich, UK.

It has some good features, I think, such as the use of heated water from the plant for domestic heating, which works well in an urban area. I think they are going to have difficulty finding enough pelletized straw to burn, although the fact that the UK has prohibited burning straw in the field (last I knew that was the most efficacious way to release nitrogen back into the soil, not that the greenies ever cared about that) but pelletizing on that scale is not an inconsiderable process.

From the website it sounds reasonably OK to me but £325 million  without a detailed plan (they haven’t sited their generating station yet, or completed detailed environmental surveys). So there is still a lot of room for the price tag to grow, and unintended consequences to strike.

In addition, it looks to me like they are relying heavily on academics, and rent-seeking government contractors and politically connected people generally. I saw no mention anywhere on the website that they thought anybody, anywhere would make a profit, not even the wheat farmers (switchgrass, anyone?).

Here’s their website.

My best guess at the moment (I haven’t even close to enough information for an opinion) is that it’s not a bad idea but they’ll not get it done in 30 years and the budget will treble (at least).

The Industrial Revolution: Why Britain Got There First

English: Watt's steam engine at the lobby of t...

English: Watt’s steam engine at the lobby of the Higher Technical School of Industrial Engineering of Madrid (part of the UPM). es:user:Ecemaml took it from Enciclopedia Libre Español: Máquina de vapor situada en el vestíbulo de la Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Industriales de la UPM (Madrid) Obtenida de la Enciclopedia Libre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This has been lying around here for a while but, it’s pretty interesting material. Stephen Clarke writing in History today tells us there are three predominate theories as to why Britain was the first country to industrialize.

Underpinning my analysis is the recent work of Professor Nicholas Crafts, Professor of Economics and Economic History at the University of Warwick. In November the Legatum Institute welcomed Professor Crafts to explore the question: ‘why Britain got there first?’

What do we understand by ‘Britain was first to industrialise’? Professor Crafts is one of the leading scholars unpacking the Industrial Revolution and his work reveals a number of salient points. First, there was no great ‘take-off’ in industrialisation or productivity: in Britain industrial employment increased by just 12% between 1759 and 1851, similarly total factor productivity increased by just 0.4% a year until the 1830s. By 20th century standards such growth was underwhelming.

That is a lot slower than we  (or at least I) was led to believe. Although I would expect this type of expansion to approximate a logarithmic curve, as it builds on itself. He also notes that Britain, along with Italy and the Netherlands already was far richer than China. In fact, my impression is that Britain (specifically England) was quite prosperous even at the time of Magna Charta in the early 13th century.

He also notes that this growth was centered in manufacturing and very little changed in the service sector. I would expect this personally since neither steam or water power was very mobile at this point.

Most successful is Robert Allen who puts forth a compelling argument in The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective. Britain’s success was the result of relative prices and market potential. Allen argues that in Britain wages were high, while capital and energy were cheap. Britain also provided a large market for manufactured products. The result was that it made sense to invest in the spinning jenny in England, while it did not in France.

However, this picture is too simplistic. While British workers were paid more than their French counterparts, even at lower French wages, adopting the jenny would still have been profitable (albeit less so). Similarly, American workers were paid more than their British counterparts, but industrialisation did not take off there.

It is too simplistic but it’s not all economics either. Britain had an established entrepreneurial class class and a rock solid rule of law, which in this context would mean that your investment (and profit) was safe, France did not.

America on the other hand shared Britain’s rule of law ethos, but was short of skilled craftsmen, engineers, transportation, and capital. When the Civil War really drove industrialization, much of it was financed by British firms looking for a higher return.

Joel Mokyr in The Enlightened Economy: an Economic History of Britain 1700-1850 posits that the Enlightenment meant that Britain was best positioned to take advantage of the ideas and equipment of the age.

There’s quite a bit more at the linked article but I think it important to emphasize that an “Enlightenment Education”, desirable as it might have been, wasn’t necessary to understand the relatively crude machinery in use. Practical engineering was the order of the day. It wasn’t nearly as academically oriented business community in those days, as it is now.

Least successful is Gregory Clark who moves further from the realm of inductive reasoning than Mokyr. Clark in A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World argues that Britain’s Industrial Revolution was a rapid transformation bought about by demographic and genetic changes

The Industrial Revolution: Why Britain Got There First | History Today.

While I see his point, I think this is more important than he does. With the upper classes passing their inheritances to the eldest son, and somewhat limited posts in both the army and the church, the rest of those surplus sons had to make a living, and I suspect many went into trade and quite a few into manufacturing, increasing the level of education amongst the middle class quite rapidly. And I think this (and the family and foreign contacts included) would have provided a springboard for the expansion of British industry and especially banking in the next few years.

In short, I think this is an immensely complicated story and no one theory is going to unpack it satisfactorily.

Spanish Flu ≠ Ebola Virus; Unless We Make It

spanish_flu_newOK, let’s be honest here, Ebola is not anything to panic about. And there’s little reason it should ever be.

But we also all know the phrase, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” don’t we? And that’s the danger here. Because Obama is a statist and a progressive that believes everything should come from the government. Nor is he the first to put his politics ahead of his duty to the country. And for that matter there is a precedent for Ebola getting completely out of hand. Didn’t know that did you? I didn’t either.

But there is, and it’s a horrid story. It goes back to Woodrow Wilson, who may well be the worst man to ever be president, including Obama. Like him, Wilson was a statist, and a progressive, who thought the Constitution was outdated, and wanted to rule by his prerogative, to use the old term. He pretty much did, especially after we got into the Great War.

And as James Jay Carafano says in the linked article, the last time we made an epidemic/pandemic a national security matter, fifty million (50,000,000) people died, worldwide. Think about that for a minute.

Sufficiently revolted? Yeah, me too. Let’s let him tell part of the story.

Progressives like to expropriate the label of national security to help drive their agendas. Statist, centrally managed, with top-down direction, the national-security model is the perfect vehicle for any policy “crusade,” be it fighting global warming or raising taxes. Thus, for example, when the administration got the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to label the “debt the biggest threat to national security,” it had all the cover needed to press for cutting defense and raising taxes—two cornerstones of President Obama’s progressive political agenda.

But playing “national security” progressive politics with public health can bring outright disaster. When the United States entered World War I, Woodrow Wilson played the national-security card early and often. The war effort became an excuse for everything from jailing political opponents to spying on everyday Americans. But, when the president used a global war as an excuse to preempt sound public-health policy, he reaped a global catastrophe.

In 1917, the war to end all wars was well under way. At Camp Funston within the boundaries of Fort Riley, Kansas, sergeants were turning recruits into doughboys. During their training, the soldiers picked up backpacks, rifles, helmets—and a new strain of flu. They carried all these with them as they traveled from the camp to the railroads, the big cities, the ports and, ultimately, overseas. On every step of the way to the trenches in Western Europe, they spread the deadly disease.

When news of the epidemic reached Washington, the White House decided it was a national-security problem. The British and French desperately needed reinforcements to turn the tide of the war; getting our boys over there was far more important than stopping the spread of the flu over here.

I can understand their thinking, I guess, but it’s simply wrong isn’t it? Was delaying the American deployments until the flu was burned out going to cost the war? Doesn’t seem very likely, does it? And starting a pandemic is pretty callous, even for a progressive.

Of course, so is ignoring the problem to fundraise, campaign, and play golf. Although, the president did cancel a fundraiser and a rally yesterday, so he could look like he was doing his job. What I really detest, along that line is that Wilson kept having mass rallies to sell war bonds.

President Wilson took one precaution. He transferred the Public Health Service to military control. Support the military effort, not the public health, became Surgeon General Rupert Blue’s main mission.

In less than a year, the Kansas outbreak had become a global pandemic. It was commonly referred to as the “Spanish flu.” Spain was a nonbelligerent in the First Word War. The government had not imposed press censorship. As a result, widespread news of the disease’s deadly progress appeared first in Spain. Most assumed that was where the problem started.

In the end, more died from the pandemic than from the war.

Stateside, at a military camp outside of Gettysburg, a young post commander named Dwight David Eisenhower ignored Washington’s advice to ignore the disease. Instead, he developed health protocols that broke the back of the disease’s run through the ranks. Impressed with the success of his methods, the Army ordered Eisenhower to dispatch his staff to other camps to train them on how to rein in influenza.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Likewise, many American cities got the disease under control only by ignoring the federal government and adopting responsible public-health policies.

See the thing is, even then, how to stop an epidemic was conventional knowledge, likely we didn’t know why, until we figured out germ theory, and all that in the late nineteenth century, but we had known that quarantines worked since the Black Death cost Europe one third of its population in the middle ages.

The moral of the story is not that it’s 1918 all over again. Ebola and influenza are two very different contagious diseases. But this cautionary tale from the last century reminds us is that the best way to deal with a disease outbreak is to follow sound public-health policies, not cloud the issue with the trappings of national security.

H/T Moe Lane

Obama’s Great Big Ebola Error | The National Interest.

All accounts say that Ebola isn’t anywhere near as contagious as the (Spanish) flu. But that is no reason to screw around and generate another pandemic, while playing politics.

%d bloggers like this: