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Wealth, Health, and Globalization

Tweet [1]

In my latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review I push back against those who interpret the COVID-19 pandemic – whose severity is undoubtable – as a reason to reject free trade and globalization [2]. A slice:

Here’s a partial list of medicines, medical treatments and public-health measures that originated outside of the United States and, thus, are made available to us Americans through our connections with non-Americans. How many of these marvels are you willing to sacrifice in order to be shielded from the possibility of the likes of covid-19?

— Antibiotics. Discovered chiefly by Alexander Fleming [3] – a Scot working in London – with important supporting roles played by an Australian [4] and a German [5].

— Immunology. Major developments originating in England [6], Germany [7], France [8], and Austria [9].

— Pasteurization. Discovered in France [10].

— Typhoid vaccine. Formulated in England [11].

— Epidemiology. Major breakthrough in England [12].

— Anesthesia. Major developments made in England and Scotland [13].

Chlorination of water [14]. Began in Germany and England.

— Insulin. Developed for medical use with the chief contributions coming from Romania [15], England [16] and Canada [17].

—Heart transplant. First performed in South Africa [18].

— Discovery of how the immune system identifies cells invaded by viruses. Major advances in Australia [19] and Switzerland [20].

To the extent that we close ourselves off to foreign commerce, we close ourselves off to much more than what globalization’s opponents contemptuously dismiss as “trinkets and T-shirts.” [21] We close ourselves off also to, among other non-trivial goods, medical and scientific advances made abroad. And we also lose foreign-produced additions to supplies of medicines produced here at home.