The unreliable history of vaccines

One of the most effective arguments for vaccines is that they have significantly reduced the death rate from the various diseases against which they are supposed to protect. And while there is little question that things have improved, there is unfortunately real cause to doubt that they have improved anywhere nearly as dramatically as nearly everyone on both sides of the issue assumes:

The National Vaccine establishment, supported by Government grants, issued periodical Reports, which were printed by order of the House of Commons, and in successive years we find the following statements:

In 1812, and again in 1818, it is stated that “previous to the discovery of vaccination the average number of deaths by small-pox within the (London) Bills of Mortality was 2,000 annually; whereas in the last year only 751 persons have died of the disease, although the increase of population within the last ten years has been 133,139.”

The number 2,000 is about the average smallpox deaths of the whole eignteenth century, but those of the last two decades before the publication of Jenner’s Inquiry, were 1,751 and 1,786, showing a decided fall. This, however, may pass. But when we come to the Report for 1826 we find the following: “But when we reflect that before the introduction of vaccination the average number of deaths from small-pox within the Bills of Mortality was annually about 4,000, no stronger argument can reasonably be demanded in favour of the value of this important discovery.”

This monstrous figure was repeated in 1834, apparently quite forgetting the correct figure for the whole century given in 1818, and also the fact that the small-pox deaths recorded in the London Bills of Mortality in any year of the century never reached 4,000. But worse is to come; for in 1836 we have the following statement: “The annual loss of life by small-pox in the Metropolis, and within the Bills of Mortality only, before vaccination was established, exceeded 5,000, whereas in the course of last year only 300 died of the distemper.” And in the Report for 1838 this gross error is repeated; while in the next year (1839) the conclusion is drawn “that 4,000 lives are saved every year in London since vaccination so largely superseded variolation (3).”

The Board of the National Vaccine Establishment consisted of the President and four Censors of the Royal College of Physicians, and the Master and two senior Wardens of the College of Surgeons. We cannot possibly suppose that they knew or believed that they were publishing untruths and grossly deceiving the public. We must, therefore, fall back upon the supposition that they were careless to such an extent as not to find out that they were authorizing successive statements of the same quantity as inconsistent with each other as 2,000 and 5000.

The next example is given by Dr. Lettsom, who, in his evidence before the Parliamentary Committee in 1802, calculated the small-pox deaths of Great Britain and Ireland before vaccination at 36,000 annually; by taking 3,000 as the annual mortality in London and multiplying by twelve, because the population was estimated to be twelve times as large. He first takes a number which is much too high, and then assumes that the mortality in the town, village, and country populations was the same as in overcrowded, filthy London! Smallpox was always present in London, while Sir Gilbert Blane tells us that in many parts of the country it was quite unknown for periods of twenty, thirty, or forty years. In 1782 Mr. Connah, a surgeon at Seaford, in Sussex, only knew of one small-pox death in eleven years among a population of 700. Cross, the historian of the Norwich epidemic in 1819, states that previous to 1805 small-pox was little known in this city of 40,000 inhabitants, and was for a time almost extinct; and yet this gross error of computing the small-pox mortality of the whole country from that of London (and computing it from wrong data) was not only accepted at the time, but has been repeated again and again down to the present day as an ascertained fact!

In a speech in Parliament in defence of .vaccination., Sir Lyon Playfair gave 4,000 per million as the average London death-rate by small-pox before vaccination—a number nearly double that of the last twenty years of the century, which alone affords a fair comparison. But far more amazing is the statement by the late Dr. W. B. Carpenter, in a letter to the Spectator of April, 1881, that “a hundred years ago the small-pox mortality of London alone, with its then population of under a million, was often greater in a six months’ epidemic than that of the twenty millions of England & Wales now is in any whole Year.” The facts, well known to every enquirer, are: that the very highest small-pox mortality in the last century in a year was 3,992 in 1772, while in 1871 it was 7,912 in. London, or more than double; and in the same year, in England and Wales, it was 23,000. This amazing and almost incredible misstatement was pointed out and acknowledged privately, but never withdrawn publicly!

The late Mr. Ernest Hart, a medical man., editor of the British Medical Journal, and a great authority on sanitation, in his work entitled The Truth about Vaccination, surpasses even Dr. Carpenter in the monstrosity of his errors. At page 35 of the first edition (1880), he states that in. the forty years 1728—57 and 1771—80, the average annual small-pox mortality of London was about 18,000 per million living. The actual average mortality, from the tables given in the Second Report of the Royal Commission, page 290, was a little over 2,000, the worst periods having been chosen; and taking the lowest estimates of the population at the time, the mortality per million would have been under 3,000. This great authority, therefore, has multiplied the real number by six! In a later edition this statement is omitted, but in the first edition it was no mere misprint, for it was triumphantly dwelt upon over a whole page and compared with modern rates of mortality.

Now, a very good argument in favor of the smallpox vaccine is that the disease has largely been eradicated, even in nations where the hygiene and sanitation does not rise to the level of nineteenth century London. But it does no one any good, and the pro-vaccine cause no service, to resort to citing fictional numbers in order to claim that public health has dramatically improved as a result of certain vaccines.

On the placement of elephants

I’m always more than a little amused when people comment that I am wasting my time by posting about Game, or atheism, or [fill in subject of little interest to you]. The fact is that I probably spend more time on pressing things like playing Guitar Hero and wondering why a superlative general like Hannibal would have elected to place his elephants in the center at Zama when he had to know that his cavalry on the wings was outnumbered by the Italian and Numidian cavalries opposing them.

The Romans drew up their forces in three lines, creating an effective reserve in the rear. The maniples however stood in separate formations, not creating a continuous line. The gaps were loosely filled by the velites (skirmishers). The Roman left wing was made up of Italian allied cavalry, while the right wing consisted of the Numidian calvary of Massinissa.

Hannibal meanwhile also aligned his troops in three lines. His mercenaries took the front, the second line was formed by the Carthaginian forces and those of the Carthaginian territories (Liby-Phoenicians). Finally at the rear stood Hannibal’s most reliable troops, the veterans from the campaign in Italy. At the very front of the army Hannibal placed his elephant corps. On his left wing he had his Numidian cavalry and to the right stood the Carthaginian cavalry.

After some initial skirmishes between the cavalry units, the battle began with a charge of the Carthaginian war elephants. They were meant to cause confusion and terrify the enemy. But it was here that Scipio’s preparation in lining up his troops in separate maniples bore fruit. The velites in the gaps now engaged the elephants, drawing them up through the alleys between the main Roman units. Also Scipio had ordered for every trumpeter of the army to blow, creating a startling noise which terrified the nervous beasts. This Roman tactic was largely successful. Most of the elephants simply charged up the alleys between the units, others even turned and collided with their own cavalry. However some did indeed drive into the Roman ranks and caused considerable damage before escaping up the alleys.

Since horses tend to be more skittish than infantry, it seems to me that it would have been significantly more effective to divide the elephant corps in two and attempt to drive off at least one cavalry wing, following the elephant charge up with an immediate cavalry attack while the Roman wings were still in disarray. Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but the fact that Africanus had his troops drawn up in columns rather than lines should have been an obvious clue that he planned to permit the elephants to pass through the Roman center.

Anyhow, Ender and I have been playing Hannibal lately and it’s not just an excellent historical wargame, it’s an educational game that tends to inspire this sort of thinking. Now I’m going to have to break out a Zama game and see if I can game out what might have happened if Hannibal had used his elephants as a means of actively defending his wings instead of simply trying to smash the Roman center with them.

Put not thy trust in IQ

Not that it is likely to, but the results of the IQ tests performed by an American Army psychologist at the Nuremberg Trials should put at least a slight damper on the often-heard atheist appeals to intelligence. Especially since at 121.72, the average IQs of the National Socialist leadership was more than a standard deviation higher than the 103.09 mean IQ reported for atheists:

IQ of Nazi leaders, cited from: Gilbert, G. M.: Nuremberg Diary. New York: Signet Book 1947, p. 34; Wechsler-Bellevue

Hjalmar Schacht, Reich Minister of Economics: IQ 143
Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Foreign Minister of Germany: IQ 141
Hermann Göring, President of the Reichstag and Reich Minister of Aviation: IQ 138
Karl Dönitz, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine: IQ 138
Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and War Production: IQ 128
Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht: IQ 127
Alfred Rosenberg, Commissar for Supervision of Intellectual and Ideological Education of the German National Socialist Workers Party: IQ 127
Rudolf Hess, Deputy Führer: IQ 120

In other words, if we are to take seriously the idea that the reported 5.95-point IQ advantage enjoyed by the “not-at-all religious” over the “very religious” means that we should be inclined to reject the theistic perspective, then surely the 18.63 advantage of the National Socialists proves we should all convert to Nazi atheism.

Eager to reach the wrong conclusion

Newsflash: men trained, equipped, and paid to break things and kill people not infrequently do bad things. However, it is educational to see the way the documentary evidence is used in an attempt to support the precise opposite of what it suggests:

The material that historian Sönke Neitzel uncovered in British and American archives is nothing short of sensational. While researching the submarine war in the Atlantic in 2001, he discovered the transcripts of covertly recorded conversations between German officers in which they talked about their wartime experiences with an unprecedented degree of openness. The deeper Neitzel dug into the archives, the more material he found. In the end, he and social psychologist Harald Welzer analyzed a total of 150,000 pages of source material….

The Holocaust is generally mentioned peripherally in the conversations between German soldiers that have now been viewed in their entirety for the first time. It is only mentioned on about 300 pages of the transcripts, which, given the monstrosity of the events, seems to be a very small number. One explanation could be that not many soldiers knew about what was happening behind the front. Another, much more likely interpretation would be that the systematic extermination of the Jews did not play a significant role in the conversations between cellmates because it had little news value.

A much more likely? interpretation? That is a completely absurd and illogical conclusion. The fact that the Holocaust is only mentioned on 300 of the 150,000 pages is actually conclusive evidence that relatively few Wehrmacht soldiers knew much about the Final Solution, unless the author, Jan Fleischhauer, seriously wants to try to claim that the exhaustive references to the sexual availability of women in the interview documents were of substantive news value.

But of course, “one-fifth of one percent of the Wehrmacht knew” is a just slightly less dramatic and excitingly revisionist than “the Wehrmacht knew”.

Krugman the historian

Thomas DiLorenzo demonstrates that Krugman knows even less about American history than he does about Austrian economics:

Krugman said he has always been infatuated by the “symbolism” of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, with “Lee the patrician in his dress uniform,” compared to General Grant, who was “still muddy and disheveled from hard riding.” Krugman is apparently unaware that by the late 1850s, on the eve of the war, Robert E. Lee was in his thirtieth year as an officer in the United States Army, performing mostly as a military engineer. He was hardly a “patrician” or member of a ruling class. Grant, by contrast, was the overseer of an 850-acre slave plantation owned by his wealthy father-in-law. The plantation, located near St. Louis, was known as “White Haven” (which sounds like it could have been named by the KKK) and is today a national park. (On the “White Haven” Web site the National Park Service euphemistically calls Grant the “manager” of the slave plantation rather than the more historically-accurate word “overseer”).

In 1862 Lee freed the slaves that his wife had inherited, in compliance with his father-in-law’s will. Grant’s White Haven slaves were not freed until an 1865 Missouri emancipation law forced Grant and his father-in-law to do so. The fact that Lee changed clothes before formally surrendering did not instantly turn the 36-year army veteran into a “patrician,” contrary to the “all-knowing” Krugman’s assertion.

Krugman goes on to assert that the North’s victory in the war was a victory in “manners” by a region that “excelled at the arts of peace.” Well, not really. What the North “excelled” in was the waging of total war on the civilian population of the South. The Lincoln administration instituted the first federal military conscription law, and then ordered thousands of Northern men to their death in the savage and bloody Napoleonic charges that characterized the war. When tens of thousands of Northern men deserted, the Lincoln administration commenced the public execution of deserters on a daily basis. When New Yorkers rioted in protest of military conscription, Lincoln ordered 15,000 soldiers to the city where they murdered hundreds, and perhaps thousands of draft protesters (See Iver Bernstein, The New York City Draft Riots). It also recruited thousands of European mercenaries, many of whom did not even speak English, to arm themselves and march South to supposedly teach the descendants of James Madison, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson what it really meant to be an American. Lee Kennett, biographer of General William Tecumseh Sherman, wrote of how many of Lincoln’s recruits were specially suited for pillaging, plundering and raping: “the New York regiments were . . . filled with big city criminals and foreigners fresh from the jails of the Old World” (Lee Kennett, Marching Through Georgia, p. 279).

The North waged war on Southern civilians for four long years, murdering at least 50,000 of them according to historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. It bombed cities like Atlanta for days at a time when they were occupied by no one but civilians, and U.S. Army soldiers looted, ransacked, and raped their way all throughout the South. The “arts of peace” indeed.

As for the war being a victory of “manners,” as Krugman says, consider this: When the women of New Orleans refused to genuflect to U.S. Army troops who were occupying their city and killing their husbands, sons and brothers, General Benjamin “Beast” Butler issued an order that all the women of that city were to henceforth be treated as prostitutes. “As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women . . . of New Orleans,” Butler wrote in his General Order Number 28 on May 15, 1862, “it is ordered that thereafter when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.” Butler’s order was widely construed as a license for rape, and he was condemned by the whole world.

It is remarkable that so many Americans still believe that their Civil War was about anything but the continuation of the Yankee empire. It is perhaps worth noting that were the USA of today to be confronted with the American Civil War, there can be little doubt that it would be bombing the Union in support of the Southern separatists.

However, it appears that Hispanic separatists may ultimately succeed where the Southern ones failed. The South may not rise again, but the Southwest almost certainly will.

WND column

Failing to Expect the Unexpected

As John Maynard Keynes chronicles as a firsthand observer in “The Economic Consequences of the Peace,” the surrendering Germans had absolutely no idea what was in store for their defeated nation in 1918 when they wrote a letter to President Wilson accepting his Fourteen Points and the armistice proposed by the allies prior to a final peace treaty. But instead of reaching a reasonable agreement with the American president on the basis of the accepted proposal, the Germans found themselves being dictated impossible terms by the French prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, who was determined to prevent Germany from ever again being capable of challenging the economic and military might of France.

We all know how that turned out. Almost exactly 21 years later, Paris fell to the vengeful Germans.


It still amazes me that people believe an America that doesn’t look like historical America is going to think or act like historical America, especially in light of all the evidence of past large-scale migrations.

Hispanic students for the first time make up the majority of students enrolled in Texas public schools. The Texas Education Agency reports Hispanic students this school year account for 50.2 percent of the state’s 4.9 million children enrolled in public schools, including pre-kindergarten and early childhood education. Currently, there are an estimated 2.48 million Hispanics students in Texas public schools.

The fact is that 21st century Hispanic Catholics are simply not going to harbor the same allegiance to the concepts of 18th century English Protestants that 21st century English Protestants do… the latter aren’t exactly hard core on the U.S. Constitution, after all. But considering how the Mongol immigrants significantly modified the Russian and Indian societies to which they added their inimitable vibrancy, I fail to grasp why so many people, white and Hispanic alike, believe that an even larger scale Mexican migration won’t have similar effects on what was once historical America.

The world is not small, flat, or digital. Above all, it is dynamic. But change is neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad… although if the initial state is far better than virtually any society has enjoyed for most of recorded human history, you are pretty much guaranteed that any change will be for the worse.

The Grasshopper Generation

Walter Williams rightly condemns the so-called “Greatest Generation”:

There is a distinct group of Americans who bear a large burden for today’s runaway government. You ask, “Who are they?” It’s the so-called “greatest generation.” When those Americans were born, federal spending as a percentage of GDP was about 3 percent, as it was from 1787 to 1920, except during war. No one denies the sacrifices made and the true greatness of a generation of Americans who suffered through our worse depression, conquered the meanest tyrants during World War II and later managed to produce a level of wealth and prosperity heretofore unknown to mankind.

But this generation of Americans also laid the political foundation for the greatest betrayal of our nation’s core founding principle: limited federal government exercising only constitutionally enumerated powers. It was on their watch that the foundation was laid for today’s massive federal spending that tops 25 percent of GDP.

As much as I despise the Baby Boomers, it has to be admitted that they did not spring into being ex nihilo. They were created, they were permitted to become what they became, by the generation that preceded them. This means that the so-called “Greatest Generation” failed at their secondary role, that of raising up the succeeding generation.

And it can even be convincingly argued that they failed at their primary role as well. For while the “Greatest Generation” provided the cannon fodder for World War II, it was not their generation that was responsible for any of the decisions involved in fighting it. It would have been impossible for the USA to lose the war given its massive industrial advantage, manpower advantage, air superiority and naval supremacy. The only real question concerned the U.S. decision to involve itself in European affairs, and once the decision to go from passive support of Britain and the Soviet Union to active involvement was made, the fate of the Axis was sealed.

It doesn’t take anything away from the bravery or the sacrifice of the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima to recognize that there was no way the Axis forces could possibly have withstood the combined might of the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the United States.

So, the “Greatest Generation” not only wasn’t primarily responsible for its one historically significant achievement, but in its failure to keep faith with the U.S. Constitution, failed in its primary responsibility of preserving the strength and stability of the nation for the generations to follow. In keeping with this verdict, it suddenly occurs to me that neither set of my grandparents left so much as one single dime to any of their children. So, it seems to me that it is much more accurate to describe that generation as “Grasshopper” than “Greatest”

All are fallible

Even intellectual giants.

“As the idea of contract enters the Law of Marriage, it breaks the rule of the male, and makes the wife a partner with equal rights. From a one-sided relationship resting on force, marriage thus becomes a mutual agreement.”
– Ludwig von Mises, Socialism

Yeah, that really hasn’t worked out so well in either practical demographic or theoretical libertarian terms.

Well, Hitler was from Austria….

Oh sweet Mises, even Krugman at his most obstinately ignorant hasn’t descended to these depths regarding the Austrian School of Economics:

Ever wonder how one of the most educated and advanced nation in Europe ended up with Hitler as a leader in 1933? Well, you have thank Austrian Economics for that- at least partially. You see, after ww1 the allies made Germans pay exorbitant and ruinous reparations. The only way to escape these compensations was through hyperinflation- wiemar style.

But here is the fun part.. after a few years of such hyperinflation they decided to cool down and “normalize” the economy- using the advice of people like Friedrich von Hayek and his “Austrian” School Of Economics. The guy who led this effort, Heinrich Brüning, whose austerity measures resulted in a massive increase in unemployment- from 15% to over 30% in less than two years.

No, you really don’t. At all. The Austrian School of economics had as much to do with the rise of the National Socialists to power in Germany as Victoria’s Secret or My Pretty Pony did. First, as anyone who has ever read The Economic Consequences of the Peace will know, hyperinflation was not only a predictable consequence of the war reparations, but could not be utilized to reduce the German debt because it was subject to recalculations that were completely under the control of the Allied commission. Inflating their way out of the debt was never an option for the Germans; there was no escape except default. This was already obvious to everyone back in 1929, which is why the Young plan reduced the reparations payments and was followed by a moratorium in 1931. Note that the Young plan went into effect three months before Brüning even took office for the first time. Second, Austrian economics had no influence on German politics, which was dominated by socialism of varying stripes. In fact, the very name “Austrian” was given as a deprecating insult to the school by the empiricists of the dominant German Historical School during the Methodenstreit at the end of the 19th century.

Third, Heinrich Brüning’s attempt to rein in the Weimar hyperinflation was not based on Friedrich von Hayek’s advice. Hayek and the Austrians were hardly the first to notice the pernicious effects of inflation and Hayek didn’t even publish his first book until 1929. Moreover, he was in London at the London School of Economics while Brüning was Chancellor of the Weimar Republic. The ironic thing is that this inept Advocatus Diaboli appears to think that Brüning should have pursued a Keynesian approach, nowithstanding the fact that the the German edition of The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Mony was not published until September 1936, four years after Brüning left office. Keynes’s own words on the German economic tradition during the period that included the Weimar years are also somewhat pertinent to the subject:

“The orthodox tradition, which ruled in nineteenth century England, never took so firm a hold of German thought. There have always existed important schools of economists in Germany who have strongly disputed the adequacy of the classical theory for the analysis of contemporary events. The Manchester School and Marxism both derive ultimately from Ricardo, a conclusion which is only superficially surprising. But in Germany there has always existed a large section of opinion which has adhered neither to the one nor to the other. It can scarcely be claimed, however, that this school of thought has erected a rival theoretical construction; or has even attempted to do so. It has been sceptical, realistic, content with historical and empirical methods and results, which discard formal analysis…. Thus Germany, quite contrary to her habit in most of the sciences, has been content for a whole century to do without any formal theory of economics which was predominant and generally accepted.”

Keynes is describing the importance of the Historical School here, the same German Historical School that gave the name to its provincial theoretical rivals. Attempting to blame the end of Weimar hyperinflation, much less the rise of Adolf Hitler, on the Austrian school or even the slightly more plausible Manchester school reveals a near-complete ignorance of economic history.