walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100_, Robert William Fogel

Subtitled: Europe, America, and the Third World

Sis: I'll be sending it along to you next; I think you might like it better than I do.

For everyone else: it's thin. The first chapter of five is an interesting historical survey. The second chapter depicts the massive changes in body size, mortality, morbidity, etc. of the 20th century. The third chapter assesses where developing nations were and what their prospects were as of the writing (published 2004). Things fall apart in the fourth chapter, where the author's position within the Chicago School becomes apparent. His prescriptions for replacing Social Security are risible and his ideas about health care in the US in general more than a little silly. Also, his assessments of political viability are just about what you would expect from someone like him. Weirdly, the fifth chapter isn't too bad, altho not good enough to make up for the fourth chapter.

On balance, _because the book is so damn short_ and because the author is quite blunt about his politics/academic school of thought, it's worth a read if you think it's an interesting topic (generally, the importance of having plenty to eat if you want to have a long and mostly healthy life, either as a society or an individual). But I disagree with him on too many points to agree with his ideas about what to do next.

And I'm pretty pleased that he pointed me at Fries' 1980 article (which I had definitely encountered secondary and tertiary summaries of, without having the citation and/or ability to access http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2690269/ I love Milbank Quarterly. Best. Journal. Ever.) and that research about the correlation between low birth weight and high blood pressure in middle age.

I stopped reading half way through the book, then picked it up again after the part I got stuck on as part of Read or Release. That's how I realized the last part of the book was worthwhile. I then revisited the middle bit and figured out why I found it so offensive. There is a lot to be said for reading books other than start at the beginning, continue until you read the end and then stop.
Tags: book review, non-fiction

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