My media week 13/03/11

ABC’s Counterpoint looked at the economics of bounty hunters, the problems facing micro-loans and the reality of the case of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

The prolific Niall Ferguson has a new book and TV series, Civilization: The West and the Rest. In them he looks at how the West was able to dominate the world. Ferguson identifies six “killer applications” vital to Western success: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic. He also asks whether the end of Western ascendancy is near. In this extract about medicine he is in typical combative form:

Take the case of the West’s most remarkable killer application – the one that, far from being a killer, had the power to double human life expectancy: modern medicine. The ascetic holy man Gandhi was scornful of Western civilization’s ‘army of doctors’. In an interview in London in 1931 he cited the ‘conquest of disease’ as one of the purely ‘material’ yardsticks by which Western civilization measured progress. To the countless millions of people whose lives have been lengthened by Western medicine, however, the choice between spiritual purity and staying alive was not difficult to make. Average global life expectancy at birth in around 1800 was just 28.5 years. Two centuries later, in 2001, it had more than doubled to 66.6 years. The improvement was not confined to the imperial metropoles. Those historians who habitually confuse famines or civil wars with genocides and gulags, in a wilful attempt to represent colonial officials as morally equivalent to Nazis or Stalinists, would do well to ponder the measurable impact of Western medicine on life expectancy in the colonial and post-colonial world.

In The New Republic writer Nicole Krauss laments the end of bookstores: Writer’s Block.

The Onion has this video: Man Becomes GOP Frontrunner After Showing No Interest In Government.


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