Health Fascism and Total State

Monday, May 21, 2007
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I am reading “Whither Mankind,” edited by Charles Beard (1928). The progressive Beard is often wrong yet always fascinating, especially where it concerns foreign policy, the Northeastern power structure, and the corporatist state.

Beard includes a chapter on health by C.-E.A. Winslow, a Professor of Health at the Yale School of Medicine. I took a side trip and did some research on professor Winslow. Though he was accused of bringing forth myriad “crackpot theories,” he was very progressive in his view of medicine, especially concerning lifestyle, degenerative disease, and preventative medicine. He understood the importance of food and exercise for overall health and vigor. He was very holistic in his outlook.

But Winslow was an unyielding centralizer, a social engineer, and a precursor to the modern lifestyle totalitarian. A paper by the CDC boasts, “We have fulfilled the prophesy of Charles-Edward Winslow, a prominent voice in public health during the early 20th century: “[P]ublic health which in its earliest days was an engineering science and has now become also a medical science must expand until it is, in addition, a social science.” Winslow was instrumental in putting forth the centralization of the US health establishment, and along with new deal architect Harry L. Hopkins, he also helped to centralize the New York City health establishment.

Winslow also advocated an aggressive utilitarian ideal for a massive public health system that would focus on the most important health issue of the time (in his mind): mental hygiene. In fact, his essay in “Whither Mankind” eerily reminds me of Bush’s Freedom Commission on Mental Health, the umbrella under which the totalitarian regime developed its Teen Screen fiasco.

Winslow writes:

Finally, behind all this public health programme of the past and the present, there opens up a new field of alost unlisted potentiality. This is the field of mental hygeine.

…We must build up a chain of mental hygeine clinics where the first sympton of mental disease can be detected and alleviated and where mental defect can be determined and provision made, either for the safeguarding of the defective in the normal life which a high-grade defective can often lead, or for institutional segregation, in the extreme case whose hereditary defects it is essential to eliminate from the stream of human inheritance.

Nor must we limit our consideration solely to the more obvious deviations from mental normality. The cases of mental disease and defect so pronounced as to require, or to threaten to require, institutional care are serious enough. Yet I believe, if we could really measure all the effects involved, that the burden laid upon society by such acute conditions is less than that created by innumerable minor mental adjustments which hamper all of us in the conduct of our daily lives.

…It is in mental hygiene thus widely interpreted that the basis of a new industrial order must be found.

This man was instrumental in laying the foundation for the centralized, collective health nannyism that we know and despise today, and he doesn’t even have an entry in Wikipedia.

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