Empires come and empires go—and their collapse, says financial historian Niall Ferguson, is often precipitous (Foreign Affairs, March/April). For example, the economic and military might of the British Empire was sharply reduced by the time of the Suez Canal crisis in 1956—just a decade after one of the empire’s shining moments, the defeat of the Axis powers.
Whenever talk turns to how dreadful health care is in countries where the government has a large role in it, I think back to a summer spent in Scotland. Our young son began to suffer from what seemed to be a virulent new allergy, and after sleepless nights and several days of sneezing, we went to the local infirmary, part of the national health plan.
The initial humanitarian response to the January 12 earthquake in Haiti has been impressive. Within weeks, Americans pledged over $500 million to the relief effort, almost equaling their response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It’s been estimated that half of all American families have donated to Haiti relief.
Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist known for his work in Haiti, has been to Liberia and planned to go back again in the fight against Ebola. According to Farmer, the outbreak of Ebola is a symptom of a very poor and weak health-care system in the three West African countries where it is spreading. In Liberia there is one physician per 100,000 people, compared to 240 in the United States. The president of Liberia points out that the Dallas Cowboys stadium uses more electricity each year than her whole country. Vaccines and drugs don’t exist because Ebola’s victims are poor and—so far—not very numerous (London Review of Books, October 23).