Spraying the Bates fly
There’s a wonderful post on a science blog about the irrational right’s fondness for DDT. As a corollary to that love of the toxin, the Right has always cultivated a nice flame of hatred for one of LI’s heroines, Rachel Carson, to whom we owe the continuing existence of the bluebird and the osprey on the East Coast of North America. Few Americans have left behind anything that valuable. LI likes the way that the aura of Rachel Carson still retains her power to drive the Right wild – for Carson marked the end of that happy stage of corporate capitalism when the social cost of production could be shoved off without remark onto third parties (this is politely termed externality by economists. Bank robbers more honestly call it a stick up). In any case, the banning of DDT was symbolically as well as environmentally important. DDT had been promoted as the cure all for malaria. In fact, it worked well, for a limited time, against the anopheles mosquito which carry p. falciparum, the malaria pathogen.
Unfortunately, the evolutionary theory that the Right wants to ban from schools is a cruel reality that rules both inside and outside the classroom. Mosquitos have a much higher rates of reproduction than birds. Thus, the natural selection that would promote the spread of a DDT resistant variant of mosquito works faster across mosquito populations than in, say, ospreys. Hence, ospreys go down to the extinction point while mosquito populations that bear malaria recover from DDT quite handily. Of course, that means developing another insect spray, since you’ve wiped out the natural predators of the mosquito – isn’t that special? Environmental damage can be good for your stockholders. Luckily, capitalism needn’t be that evil – unlike consumer goods, like guns and drugs, insecticides are rather easy to ban.
The evolutionary story is the not unexpected lesson from the great spraying of the late fifties and early sixties. That spraying was justified only as a temporary expedient, while the first world resourced the search for a malaria cure. But – there was no such resourcing. Big Pharma went on to puzzle over male pattern baldness in CEOs, for which there was a big market in pseudo-drugs. In terms of the third world, the only thought in the heads of the drug makers was squeezing as much IP profit as possible from sucker countries that signed up to American sponsored trade agreements that installed vile American IP standards in these countries – which, of course, would have destroyed the nineteenth century American economy when it was developing. It is called colonialism, and – mockingly – free trade, by which the Right means the granting of monopoly power to businesses by the state. Ah, there is something the state does superbly, it turns out.
Tim Lamber at his blog, Deltoid, sprays the arguments that are being advanced Tech Central’s anti-enviro shill, one Roger Bate, that use of DDT in Sri Lanka is the best means to ward off potential post tsunami malaria . Bate apparently thinks that DDT carries with it some disturbance to the mosquitos organism such that even if it doesn’t kill the mosquito, it acts as like OFF to ward off mosquitoes – and thus should be sprayed within houses.
Of course, Bate is pulling these facts out of his … well funded career as a front man for various industry lobbies.
The Deltoid blog has a very nice run down of the numerous errors being spread by anopheles Bate-ius, here.
And – we are late in this – we urge readers to check out Krugman’s NYRB article about social security. Most lefty economists, when they start talking about social security, end up sounding like musicologists talking about rock and roll – the point is lost in the analytic clutter. Krugman, however, is perfectly clear about the spuriousness of the argument against social security. The Economist, not long ago, wrote an analysis of Bush’s proposals showing that they were disastrous, but still supported privatizing Socia Security because “it is wrong for the government to guarantee retirement.” This, in essence, is the motive for the whole hub-bub – an ideological one, an absolutist anti-state-ism, and not an economic one. There’s no economic argument against Social Security that isn’t an argument against any private pension fund.
PS -- Our friend Paul objected to that last sentence -- see his comment. Upon thinking about it, it might misrepresent Krugman's point. That point is that an aging, health care spending population is going to affect all institutions in the U.S. But Krugman's article doesn't specifically talk about the problems that are being encountered, right now, by private pension plans. My mix up.