We the trusting people

The US government decided to try and wipe out the scourge of polio by fumigating the country with more than one billion pounds of DDT, which ended up actually causing the polio epidemic of the 1940s and 1950s. Hundreds of thousands of people died or suffered greatly.

But the government misdiagnosed the cause of the epidemic, and so it moved to vaccinate nearly two-thirds of the population—about a hundred million people—and many more around the world with vaccines that actually caused paralysis in tens of thousands of people and were contaminated with a wild monkey virus—simian virus 40—found to produce cancer.

We may never know for sure whether SV40 is one of the main contributors to the steady rise in cancer rates in the US during the past half century. But you have to wonder. If so, it would be a tragedy of historic proportions. Not only because of the human toll taken by the disease, but because it would all have been so unnecessary had the government opted against poisoning the country with DDT in the first place.

One bad decision led to another bad decision, and on and on. It’s as if government officials and bureaucrats have this special talent for being unable to see the forest for the trees. And we the people—the trusting people—always seem to be the ones who pay for it.


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