I recently finished After the Plague, a lecture series by Simon Doubleday, a professor at Hofstra. The pandemic of the lectures is the Black Death of the 14th century. As with the physicians of spring 2020 who harmed COVID-19 patients by putting them on ventilators (today we realize that most would have done better if they’d stayed home with an oxygen bottle), doctors in 1349 often made plague patients worse and certainly had no effective treatment to offer. As with the fanatical sanitizers of today, public health officials back then tried to stop the pandemic by cleaning up the filthy streets. Ultimately, just as with SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen killed nearly everyone that could be killed despite the best efforts of the doctors and officials.
Professor Doubleday relates that the lack of effective remedies did not reduce public confidence in the experts. In fact, physicians made more money, officials got more power, and both classes of health experts got more prestige even as 50 percent of the population was being felled by Yersinia pestis.
In common with other scholars, Professor Doubleday relates that the reduction in population resulted in a tremendous increase in wages for the survivors (see Immigration is the Reverse Black Death?) due to the reduced supply of labor.
3 thoughts on “Pandemic increases the wealth, power, and prestige of doctors and public health officials even when their remedies are ineffective”
Even the Great Sanitizers in China fail. The recent measures in Shanghai are horrible, the following article reads like a satirical sketch, but seems to be reality (they are confiscating entire apartment blocks to turn them into quarantine centers and treat people like cattle — Trudeau would be proud):
Two days earlier, residents had been ordered to leave their apartments at the Nashi International housing complex in East Shanghai. The authorities intended to turn it into an isolation center for Covid-19 positive patients. “I am disappointed and angry. We were not told why our residence was chosen. Is it even logical to place infected people in close proximity to healthy individuals? If they smoke from their balcony, we can smell it from ours,” said a 24-year-old resident who was among the protesters and chose to remain anonymous. According to her, ten people were arrested during the mini-protest.
I, too, can smell smoke from neighbors even with all doors closed. Why would a virus not take the same path?
The Chinese still use the boot instead of our sophisticated manufactured consent methods.
> Professor Doubleday relates that the lack of effective remedies did not reduce public confidence in the experts. In fact, physicians made more money, officials got more power, and both classes of health experts got more prestige even as 50 percent of the population was being felled by Yersinia pestis.
This reminds me of Y2K . There were a lot of *experts* on Y2K and doomsday believers. Lucky for us, unlike COVIDfear, Y2K had a well defined end-day: midnight 1999. After which we went back to our normal lives and no satellite crashed on the White House. Phew!
The black death transferred wealth to the poor. Covid transferred wealth to the government & home owners. The printing press didn’t exist until after the plague, which made it quite difficult for governments to print their way out of debt like nowadays.
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