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The Cure in the Code by Peter Huber

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17

DYING ALONE

“IN THE VICTORIAN version of the Puritan ethic,” historian Gertrude Himmelfarb writes in The Moral Imagination, “cleanliness was, if not next to godliness, at least next to industriousness and temperance.” First they rebuilt the sewers, but with the emergence of germ science in the 1860s and 1870s, the Victorians came to understand that while public sanitation would eradicate many germs, escaping the rest required a robust germ-hating culture. By the time most of our grandparents were born, protecting public health had become, in large part, a private duty—one that included submitting to unwanted vaccination. We have spent the last half century not just abandoning that duty but turning it inside out. To a considerable extent, ...

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