An earlier version of this was posted Oct 21, 2008. It has been edited slightly to reflect current conditions, but it is basically accurate still.
The patient takes vitamins and minerals in doses recommended by most physicians, and gets plenty of exercise.
The patient eats a reasonably healthy diet. However, the patient depends to a large degree on imported food, which is often expensive, though the price goes up and down to a degree, and while the patient could grow plenty of home grown food, the patient hasn’t been planting enough lately to sustain present and future dietary needs. So the patient is hungry, and losing weight
The patient is mysteriously ill. Upon examination, it appears that the patient has been slowly poisoned. The patient’s immune system and general state of health might have been sufficient to cover the symptoms of the poisoning longer, except for the strain imposed by the recent hunger and weight loss. The symptoms have been coming on for sometime, but only recently have they become indisputable, as what seemed subclinical does of the poison accumulated in the tissues enough to cause big problems.
Some physicians suggest simply stopping the poison immediately, engaging in a crash program to feed the patient, and growing lots more food for the future, starting today. The basically healthy patient’s immune system and generally good habits will reverse the effects of the poison.
Some physicians suggest continuing the patient’s calorie restriction, cutting back on the vitamins and exercise, switching to a different poison (but reducing the dose) and using leeches to drain away the bad blood. When it’s pointed out that the vitamins and exercise are usually good things, and that poison is usually a bad thing, these practitioners assure the patient that the problem was an unexpected reaction between the nutritional supplements and the low grade poison dose, and the new poison is really a purgative to help clear the system of the effect of too many vitamins, and won’t do any harm. When these doctors are asked if the patient really shouldn’t be eating more, they say it’s good to be skinny, and research shows that skinny people live longer, anyway. They point to all kinds of studies that seem to prove all of this, and cite complicated sounding theories to justify the counter-intuitive nature of their prescriptions. Trust them: they’re the experts. And besides, even if the patient starts growing more food again, it will be many years before enough can be grown to adequately feed the patient (aren’t growing seasons usually annual things?). And even if the patient eats more, the patient will just start exercising more again, and burn the calories, and what good will that do?
I know which advice I’d follow, if I was the patient.
The patient, of course, is the US economy.
The vitamins and exercise are the tax cuts put in years ago by the Bush administration and Congress. Strictly speaking, the vitamins are the tax cuts (think antioxidants that prevent cross-linking), and the exercise is the additional economic freedom those cuts created for productive activity that drove the huge success of our economy for six years after 9/11, until the combination of oil prices and the housing/financial meltdown drug it down about a year ago.
Did you get the pun? The housing/financial meltdown “drug” the economy down. Ouch…
The diet is oil and energy, and we don’t make anywhere near enough of our own, which is part of the reason prices were so high not long ago. Don’t be fooled! Even though prices have fallen far off the $150/barrel highs, oil is still in short supply for an active, vibrant economy. You can’t have a speculative bubble without an underlying “shortage,” and right now people are simply doing less that demands energy. But our access to energy is going to reflect itself in our ability to “rev up” the economy as we grow out of the recession. The combination of a true structural energy shortage for a vibrant economy, plus the inflation that is going to result from the printing of new money, is going to result in higher oil prices than we’ve ever dreamed of, within a relatively short time, as the economy improves, demand goes up, and the worth of money goes down.
The mysterious poison (that “drug” we mentioned, the one with inevitably serious side effects) is government interference in the marketplace, particularly in trying to repeal the basic laws of economics. One of the main things that poisons do is to interfere with normal biological processes, and market interference is little different. There are many of these poisons, and when one of them is having an obviously negative effect on the patient, too many so-called experts suggest we try a different one. The problem is that all such interference is toxic for our economy. Some amount of government interference is probably inevitable; after all, we take medicines that are essentially poisons, because our overall organisms can handle it in small amounts, and the medicine sometimes helps resolve a short-term problem. But you will die young on a steady diet of high doses of all kinds of medicine, regardless of how beneficial some medicines are in short term use for very specific problems. A body can tolerate just a very few “maintenance” medicines for a long life, and they must have very mild side effects to be survivable.
A few years ago I had some blood tests that revealed serious problems. My doctor couldn’t figure it out, and sent me to a specialist. He looked at the list of medicines I was taking, and simply took me off everything but the absolute minimum. My blood-work improved dramatically, as did my overall health. What had happened was “medicine creep”, where the doctor prescribes one thing, then another to deal with the side effects of the first, then another, then another, and so on. It took an expert to decide to do very little, while the mediocre practitioner tried to do too much.
We are toxic with government economic medicine right now. The physicians who are prescribing it were wrong about the LAST ten prescriptions, with side effects they claimed we wouldn’t experience, and with frequent failure in the purpose of the medicine, even WITH the deleterious side effects. And they are planning to send us the bill for their professional services, anyway. The very best thing they could do is to withdraw all but the very minimum of economic medicine (meaning a tolerable toxicity), and let the body heal itself. It will.
But our president and Democrat congress have big plans. They want to put us on about a dozen VERY STRONG maintenance medicines for life, medicines with serious toxic side effects, medicines that have not ever worked for any other patient over the long term, and send our children the bill.
I wish politicians had to take the Hippocratic oath before taking office, which includes, if memory serves, this promise:
First, do no harm.
Unfortunately, instead of Hippocrates in office, we have hypocrites.