From Pathology to Politics: Public Health in America

Article excerpt

From Pathology to Politics: Public Health in America by James T. Bennett and Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Transaction Publishers * 2000 * 160 pages * $29.95

From Pathology to Politics, by economists James T. Bennett and Thomas J. DiLorenzo, is a serious, eye-opening indictment of America's public-health establishment. Bennett and DiLorenzo mark the release of the federal government's Kerner Report of 1968 as the point when the public-health establishment (PHE), incarnated in the American Public Health Association (APHA), crossed its Rubicon and left the realm of science for the realm of politics. That report, discussing the "root causes" of poverty, was embraced by the APHA, which then boldly announced that "social policy rather than public health, per se, would henceforth become its main focus."

By the 1970s and 1980s, with the growth of government, the PHE came to have tentacles extending into virtually every government agency, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Defense, not to mention the Centers for Disease Control, state and local agencies, and the various schools of public health. The PHE became (and remains) bloated and highly politicized, more concerned with increasing its power, promoting its radical, left-wing political agenda, and augmenting its own budgets than enhancing the public health.

The authors show that a large portion of the tax dollars that go into the PHE are used to fund biased, unnecessary projects and other boondoggles concocted by publichealth experts who frequently use politicized, results-oriented research masquerading as science to promote increased government intervention and to further increase their funding. And of course, the PHE makes sure to allocate significant amounts of money to lobbying for itself. If called into question, it retreats behind the unchallengeable slogan that it must be done "for the children."

At one time, the PHE depended on campaigns of public education. No more. Now it depends on raw power and government coercion. If there is any education, you can be sure it will be followed by calls for the establishment of more agencies and bureaucracies, more regulation, more money extracted from the taxpayer, greater restrictions on individual liberties, and more government dependency.

Although the PHE proclaims that many of its reforms are "for the children," when it comes to politics and ideology, even the youngsters can be relegated to the back seat. …