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The Coming Plague, New Republic review (was Re: The genetic stability of Ebola virus)

g1687jkarh at umbsky.cc.umb.edu g1687jkarh at umbsky.cc.umb.edu
Tue Aug 8 09:07:07 EST 1995

In Article <1995Aug8.163209.26682 at alw.nih.gov>
Jim Owens <jow at helix.nih.gov> writes:

>This may read as terribly insensitive, so I apologize in advance.

>Five or so years ago I read a series of three books translated from
>French.  The author, whose name I have forgotten (Memory is the second
>thing to go -- I've forgotten the first!) looked at world history from an
>economic perspective.  He found that for the century after Plague killed
>1/3 of the world's population the economic lot of the peasants was
>greatly improved.  The hardships caused by all the deaths was confined to
>the years of the Plague.  After that the common people were considerably
>better off than before for  3 or 4 generations.

>As long as there are enough survivors plagues are awful only while people
>are dying.  The rebuilt world will be better than the old one, at least
>for a while.

     This might read as moderately insensitive, but....

     This is an interesting idea. Now it seems that our economy is stagnating
and the standard of living is declining rapidly. Because of the failure of the
marketplace to produce jobs at a sufficient rate, jobs are scarce and the
employers know this. We need a new plague. One sufficient to create a labor
shortage, in the most desired jobs, of sufficient magnitude to assure that
it will be an employees (rather than employers) market, at least for the next
few generations and preferrably for at least the maximum likely interval 
between significant plagues. 
     Ideally, to benefit those who are struggling in this economy, the plague
should selectively eliminate labor in higher paying jobs like running fortune
500 companies. This way, GOOD jobs will be available to the survivors. If the
plague struck unemployed people, no new job openings would become available, or
if lower income people were affected, the new job openings would be for poor
paying jobs which are (by definition) of less value and less desireable. 
     Since we can't count on nature to provide this windfall before the next
rent payment is due or the refrigerator is empty, we must make it ourselves.
Could a virus or something be made to fulfill this need? A quick glance at the
racial demographics of who has the good jobs suggests that there are genetic
differences which could be exploited for this aim. Maybe lifestyles of rich 
versus poor can be studied to determine differences relevant to the design of
an ideal plague. 

     Any ideas? Note: Due to impending passage of the exon amendment, please
do not post suggestions which require the use of any form of explosive device,
as these are forbidden. 

     Sorry, I can't afford to be sensitive. 

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