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Solomon's Knot by Robert D. Cooter, Hans-Bernd Schäfer

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Chapter 14

How the Many Overcome the Few

Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, was born August 30, 1797, and her mother died from puerperal fever ten days later. At the time, some physicians believed correctly that doctors transmitted the disease by delivering one baby after another in hospitals without washing their hands. Other doctors resisted the evidence, even after Pasteur identified the culpable bacteria in 1879.1 Puerperal fever killed many people who could have been saved merely by washing hands. In development economics as in medicine, error resists truths that challenge interests.2 Economic growth benefits many people and harms a few, but the few people harmed sometimes command the heights of society, like billionaires, bankers, ...

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