The Pox Of Liberty: How The Constitution Left Americans Rich, Free, And Prone To Infection

Hardcover | June 29, 2015

byWerner Troesken

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The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world. But that wealth hasn't translated to a higher life expectancy, an area where the United States still ranks thirty-eighth—behind Cuba, Chile, Costa Rica, and Greece, among many others. Some fault the absence of universal health care or the persistence of social inequalities. Others blame unhealthy lifestyles. But these emphases on present-day behaviors and policies miss a much more fundamental determinant of societal health: the state.

Werner Troesken looks at the history of the United States with a focus on three diseases—smallpox, typhoid fever, and yellow fever—to show how constitutional rules and provisions that promoted individual liberty and economic prosperity also influenced, for good and for bad, the country’s ability to eradicate infectious disease. Ranging from federalism under the Commerce Clause to the Contract Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, Troesken argues persuasively that many institutions intended to promote desirable political or economic outcomes also hindered the provision of public health. We are unhealthy, in other words, at least in part because our political and legal institutions function well. Offering a compelling new perspective, The Pox of Liberty challenges many traditional claims that infectious diseases are inexorable forces in human history, beyond the control of individual actors or the state, revealing them instead to be the result of public and private choices.

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The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world. But that wealth hasn't translated to a higher life expectancy, an area where the United States still ranks thirty-eighth—behind Cuba, Chile, Costa Rica, and Greece, among many others. Some fault the absence of universal health care or the persistence of social inequalities...

Werner Troesken is professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of three books: Water, Race, and Disease; Why Regulate Utilities?; and The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster.

other books by Werner Troesken

The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster
The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster

Paperback|Sep 26 2008

$37.62 online$37.95list price
Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:June 29, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226922170

ISBN - 13:9780226922171

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface
Chapter 1. An Introduction
Chapter 2. From the Ideology of the Township to the Gospel of Germs
Chapter 3. The Constitutional Foundations of Health and Prosperity
Chapter 4. The Pox of Liberty
Chapter 5. The Palliative Effects of Property Rights
Chapter 6. Empire, Federalism, and the Surprising Fall of Yellow Fever
Chapter 7. Concluding Remarks
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“A fascinating and insightful volume that provides balanced, highly readable analysis about the relationship among the US Constitution, American ideological beliefs about the nature and scope of individual liberty, and sociopolitical public health efforts to eradicate various diseases throughout the history of the country. . . . Troesken convincingly achieves his goal of demonstrating that constitutional interpretation is a very useful lens through which to examine governmental policies that addressed diseases like smallpox and yellow fever.  Overall, The Pox of Liberty is an engaging and educational read. Highly recommended.”