Category Archives: Freakonomics

CIA helps spread of Polio

There have been a lot of unintended consequences of the War on Terror. This is one that I had not heard of before.

Polio had almost been eradicated in Pakistan and now it is on the rise again. This story from Freakonomics Radio is specifically about why more people don’t take the flu vaccine. In their examination they came across this story of how actions taken by individuals and organizations can effect peoples views of vaccines.

Humanities fight against disease has been waged for thousands of years. This fight has sometimes been extremely low tech such as sterilizing wounds alcohol and washing hands. Other times it is very high tech and experimental such as current efforts with gene therapy. Without a doubt, one of the greatest weapons in that fight has been vaccinations. Polio, small pox, measles, it is hard today to understand the fear that parents only a few generations ago had that their children would get some of these horrible diseases because our campaigns against them have been so successful

However, that success is leading to a strong backlash. This map from the Council on Foreign Relations shows the massive rise in preventable diseases, particularly in the United States. Even worse, the actions of the United States are giving people in other regions of the world proof that vaccines are part of a western plot.

As the Freakonomics story points out, providing additional information to people who don’t believe in vaccines tends to just make them less likely to get vaccinated. If we can’t change the minds of people in this country, can we at least not act in such blatant disregard for public health in other countries?

I encourage you to listen to the whole podcast, or subscribe on iTunes.

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Do you know where your turkey comes from?

This clip came from way back in the Freakonomics archive but it is worth sharing in honor of Thanksgiving.

There are a lot of interesting ways the modern food industry affects our lives but this is one aspect that I wouldn’t normally think about. You can find the whole podcast here, it is very short but it goes into a little more detail about how the turkey industry deals with the problem.

I also highly recommend the rest of the Freakonomics Radio podcasts which you can find on their website or iTunes.