Vincent Geloso on Werner Troesken’s The Pox of Liberty

19 04 2020

The economic historian Vincent Geloso has published an excellent blog post on the EHS website in which he draws on the late Werner Troesken’s The Pox of Liberty:  How the Constitution Left Americans Rich, Free, and Prone to Infection to help us to think about the trade-offs we will collectively need to make in making policy decisions about how we quickly we lift the COVID lockdowns.

Speaking of historical research that is relevant to our current policy trade-offs, I would like to bring the attention of my readers to a series of papers in which the medical historian Howard Markel and colleagues attempted to assess the impact of the different policies that US cities adopted to fight the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic. The lesson I took away from these papers is that the policy of locking down early and hard is probably the best course of action from both a public health and economic point of view. In other words, if we want to minimise both the number of people who die or are permanently disabled by the virus and the overall economic impact, stringent lockdowns would seem to be the way to go.


Markel, Howard, Harvey B. Lipman, J. Alexander Navarro, Alexandra Sloan, Joseph R. Michalsen, Alexandra Minna Stern, and Martin S. Cetron. “Nonpharmaceutical interventions implemented by US cities during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic.” Jama 298, no. 6 (2007): 644-654.




One response

19 04 2020
Miller, Rory


According to this morning’s Sunday Times, even Dominic Cummings seems to have thought it worthwhile to read some academic work on the 1918-19 epidemic while he was isolated and come to conclusion in the second paragraph below.

Hope that you and your family are keeping safe and well.


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