Events over the past year clearly have confirmed that we are a “work in progress” even as we stubbornly affirm our good intentions to create a society committed to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
With the Dobbs’ decision, our Supreme Court has unleashed long-abandoned regressive state laws designed to reinforce selective patriarchy and undermine the stability and confidence of America’s women and families. As a result, our nation’s health professionals, and the patients they care for, potentially find themselves “on the wrong side of the law.”
It calls to mind the well-worn phrase of mothers everywhere to their bossy children, “Who died and left you boss?”
Since our former President, on the eve of his latest indictment, decided to deliver a message to North Carolina Republican supporters this past weekend, claiming that he was engaged in the “final battle” with “corrupt” forces, most especially the “Deep State” that was “out to get him,” I decided to fact check his claims with the kids of North Carolina.
North Carolina’s K-12 lesson plan, titled “The Rule of Law,” begins with the Teddy Roosevelt quote, “No man is above the law, and no man is below it” from his 1903 State of the Union address.
“The title of our lands is free, clear, and absolute, and every proprietor of the land is a princess his own domains, and lord paramount of the fee.”
Jesse Root, 1798, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court
When it came to social hierarchy and family position, land was the ultimate measure of success and influence in Great Britain. But by the time of the American Revolution, our Founders were already fast at work dismantling Primogeniture (“the right of succession belonging to the firstborn child, especially the feudal rule by which the whole real estate of an intestate passed to the eldest son.”) It had already largely disappeared in New England, and was gone in the southern colonies by 1800.
In its place, the colonists envisioned a “free and mobile market,” where land could be traded like money and other goods. To do so, the original land grants and “feudal tenures” were obliterated, and their legal documents swept clean by the new law of the land. The decisions on ownership were made locally, empirically and by “common wish” of those in power.
Property was meant to be traded, fast and furious, but most of all put to “productive use” in a young nation obsessed with rapid growth. As legal historian, Lawrence Friedman, suggested, “In land lay the hope of national wealth; for countless families, it was their chance to make some money. The land, once it was cleared of the native peoples (by hook or by crook), and properly surveyed, was traded with speed and fury. Speculation in raw lands was almost a kind of national lottery.”
A few weeks ago New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote, “We Are Opening The Lid On Two Giant Pandoras Boxes.” He was referring to 1) artificial Intelligence (AI) which most agree has the potential to go horribly wrong unless carefully regulated, and 2) global warming leading to water mediated flooding, drought, and vast human and planetary destruction.
Friedman argues that we must accept the risk of pursuing one (rapid fire progress in AI) to potentially uncover a solution to the other. But positioning science as savior quite misses the point that it is human behavior (a combination of greed and willful ignorance), rather than lack of scientific acumen, that has placed our planet and her inhabitants at risk.
The short and long term effects of fossil fuels and carbonization of our environment were well understood before Al Gore took “An Inconvenient Truth” on the road in 2006. So were the confounding factors including population growth, urbanization, and surface water degradation.
When I first published “Healthy Waters,” the global population was 6.5 billion with 49% urban, mostly situated on coastal plains. It is now 8 billion with 57% urban and slated to reach 8.5 billion by 2030 with 63% urban. 552 cities around the globe now contain populations exceeding 1 million citizens.
Under ideal circumstances, this urban migration could serve our human populations with jobs, clean air and water, transportation, housing and education, health care, safety and security. Without investment however, this could be a death trap.
Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday May 25 at 1PM PT 4PM ET are Olympic rower for 2 countries and DiME CEO Jennifer Goldsack, (@GoldsackJen); medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee); and writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard);
The video will be below. If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved from Friday as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels
Believe it or not, The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first introduced 100 years ago in 1923. But it was only adopted by Congress by a 2/3 majority vote 49 years later in 1972. That was simply step 1 in the world’s most complex and difficult national constitutional amendment process.
Step 2, approval by 3/4 of the states, seemed off to a running start with 28 of the required 38 states signing up that first year. But 1972 was also the year that Phyllis Schafly, an outspoken supporter of patriarchy and stay-at-home motherhood, began echoing her anti-ERA message on Chicago News Radio WBBM. The following year, she went national with a CBS Morning News contract, followed by a gig with CNN from 1980 to 1983.
Corny, but effective and dogged in pursuit culture war issues, she was a gifted publicist who leveraged the role of “housewife” for all it was worth. One of her gambits was to deliver homemade bread, jam and apple pies to state legislators with the message ”Preserve us from a congressional jam; Vote against the ERA sham” and “I am for Mom and apple pie.”
The irony that she had been largely “not at home” as an active conservative political warrior since signing on as a young researcher at the American Enterprise Institute in 1946, and (by now) had waged a battle for three decades to preserve “traditional American values” as a lawyer, editor, and national speaker apparently never registered with her wildly enthusiastic fanhood.
Former President Donald Trump’s indictment this morning reinforces most Americans’ belief that “No man is above the law.” But few of us have taken the time to explore what that statement means when it comes to building a healthy nation, and why we believe it.
How do you create a healthy nation?
This is at once a very simple and a very complex question. It is at the heart of successful and failed nation building.
It applies equally to a self-assessment of our approach to rebuilding Germany and Japan as part of the Marshall Plan after WW II, and to our own struggles with autonomy and disparity in America where our very beginnings were (and continue to be) marred by a history of enslavement of blacks, forced migration and cultural destruction of Native Americans, and subjugation of women.
The law, a blend of agreed upon rules, regulations and boundaries, arose in layers over time, and reflected the communities where they emerged. Our own American legal system, on which we relied to launch this nation-building exercise in 1776, is dynamic and continues to evolve to this day.
As legal historian Lawrence Friedman wrote, “Despite a strong dash of history and idiosyncrasies, the strongest ingredient in American law at any given time is the present – current emotions, real economic interests, and concrete political groups.” It is then “a study of social development unfolding through time…”
When building a nation, some countries like France and Germany, relied on written codified rules, statutes or “rational instruments” on which they leaned to create order and to base decisions. But our laws, upon which this nation was built, if they have a basis, were descendant from British law.
As we enter a new and potentially historic week, with a former President doing his best to reignite a Civil War in our nation, we do well to take a breath and reread James Madison’s words from Federalist No. 51. But first, a few words of history.
When it came to checks and balances in this new national experiment in self governance, the Founders, while establishing three co-equal branches, left one of those branches the task of defining by practice its own power and influence.
The new Constitution in 1787 awarded one branch, the elected Congress, the daunting power to impeach, convict and remove representatives or appointed federal officials for due cause up to the President himself. But it also empowered a second branch, the Executive, through its President, veto power to check legislative excesses and the privilege of initiating appointments to the federal judiciary. Only the third branch of the government, the Judiciary, was left deliberately “elastic,” destined to grow into “the triangle of power.”
Thirteen years later, on February 17, 1801, Congress was forced to break a tie in the Electoral College vote, resolving a Constitutional crisis and declaring a victor in one of “the most acrimonious presidential campaigns” in U.S. history. Thomas Jefferson was awarded the victory, and John Adams acquiesced and was sent packing a month later. But two days before he departed, Adams unloaded multiple appointments of circuit justices and justices of the peace which the U.S. Senate quickly confirmed on March 3rd. In the rush, Adam’s Secretary of State, John Marshall (soon to become Chief Justice Marshall of the Supreme Court under President Jefferson) didn’t have time to complete a final necessary step, delivering the commissions, to some of the appointees.
Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday March 16 at 1PM PT 4PM ET were futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve); medical historian Mike Magee (@drmikemagee); patient safety expert and all around wit Michael Millenson (@mlmillenson); and delivery & platform expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis). Lots of discussion about the Walgreens not selling abortifacients, Silicon Valley Bank’s impact on digital health, and how hospitals are doing.
You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.
Health entrepreneurs today tend to give themselves very high grades, and seem surprised when their creations fall short of expectations due to a disconnect with funders or regulators with legal authority. But Medicine isn’t fair, and genius is not that common.
What other conclusion can you draw from the thousands of references and citations featuring Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush and his wild ideas on how to heroically treat Yellow Fever in 1793, but likely never heard of Dr. John Henry Rauch. The former signed the Declaration of Independence but directly or indirectly contributed to many an unpleasant death. The latter saved millions and helped the AMA and the AAMC find their way out of their post-Civil War professional wilderness.
Dr. Rauch’s career, its’ span and breadth, is startling and could well serve as a yardstick for medical imagineers today. Born in Lebanon, PA in 1828, he received his Medical Degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and then opened a practice in Burlington, Iowa. He was there in 1850 for the birthing of the Iowa State Medical Society, and with their encouragement published (just five years after Iowa achieved statehood) the epic “Medical and Economic Botany of Iowa” listing 516 species, fully 23% of the known flora of the state today.
Two decades later, he was onsite in Chicago from October 8-10, 1871, when 3.3 square miles of Chicago burned to the ground taking 300 souls with it, and managed the emergency medical aftermath for the city. By then he was all too familiar with conflagration and disaster, having earned the imprimatur of lieutenant-colonel from the Union Army as assistant medical-director of the famed Army of Virginia during the Civil War.
Medicine does not exist in a vacuum. The trusting relationships that underpin it function within an ever-changing environment of shifting social determinants. This is not new, nor surprising.
Consider for example the results of their 1851 survey of 12,400 men from the eight leading U.S. colleges had to be shocking. The AMA was only four years old at the time and being forced to acknowledge a significant lack of public interest in a physician’s services. This in turn had caused the best and the brightest to choose other professions. There it was in black and white. Of those surveyed, 26% planned to pursue the clergy, 26% the law, and less than 8% medicine.
It wasn’t that doctors with training (roughly 10% of those calling themselves “doctor” at the time) lacked influence. They had been influential since the birth of the nation. Four signers of the Declaration of Independence were physicians – Benjamin Rush, Josiah Bartlett, Lyman Hall, and Mathew Thorton. Twenty-six others were attendees at the Continental Congress. But making a living as a physician, that was a different story.
During the first half of the 19th century, the market for doctoring went from bad to worse. Economic conditions throughout a largely rural nation encouraged independent self-reliance and self-help. The politics of the day were economically liberal and anti-elitist, which meant that state legislatures refused to impose regulations or grant licensing power to legitimate state medical societies. Absent these controls, proprietary “irregular medical schools” spawned all manner of “doctors” explaining why 40,000 individuals competed for patients by 1850 – up from 5000 (of which only 300 had degrees) in 1790.
The ecology of 1850’s medicine couldn’t be worse. The marketplace was a perfect storm – equal parts stubborn self-reliance, absence of licensure to promote professional standards, diploma mills that showed little interest in scientific advancement, and massive unimpeded entry of low quality competitors.
The legitimate doctors in those early days saw 5 patients on a good day. Horse travel on poor roads, and the absence of remote systems for communication, meant doctors had to be summoned in person to attend a birth or injury. And patients lost a day’s work to travel all the way to town for a visit of questionable worth. The direct and indirect costs for both doctor and patient were unsustainable. As a result, most doctors had multiple careers to augment their income.