An avian flu outbreak in the UK has had that country’s media in a predictable panic. The Times’ Mick Hume has a rational response:
True, the Suffolk infection is of the H5N1 strain that can infect humans. But the 164 killed in the developing world lived cheek-by-beak with diseased birds. The poor children who died of bird flu in Turkey had been playing with chicken’s heads rather than Heelys. There would be no health risk in eating those Suffolk turkeys, so long as you cooked them first.
This point reflects Schumpeter’s observation:
It is the cheap cloth, the cheap cotton and rayon fabric, boots, motorcars and so on that are the typical achievements of capitalist production, and not as rule improvements that would mean much to the rich man. Queen Elizabeth owned silk stockings. The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort.
Capitalism is, by its very nature, one of the most egalitarian achievements of mankind. Bird flu shouldn’t be a worry in the UK because of the free enterprise system. However, a very successful propaganda movement has asserted that black is white here. Its adherents are those most worried about the avian flu outbreak, of course, because to assert the resiliency of wealth is to repudiate their cherished beliefs. Back to Mick:
[S]ome responses to Suffolk do reveal the spread of a nasty antihuman virus. A virulent strain of self-loathing seems to be catching on the internet. Many claim the bird flu confirms the evils of industrial farming. Some take pleasure in seeing Bernard Matthews suffer, as if this was cosmic karma for his accursed Turkey Twizzlers.Others suggest that a bird flu pandemic would be nature’s way of telling us there are too many people on the planet. One outraged BBC online reader asks why we cull infected birds but not humans who might infect animals? Presumably if we had taught the poor turkeys to read, those health advice leaflets might not have been wasted.
The most rational response has come from those most at risk: the unsentimental Matthews workers and other locals, who depend on killing turkeys for a living and are more concerned about the impact on jobs than health. One barman at a local pub said: “We were thinking of running up to the police in a turkey costume just to liven things up a bit. People round here are not the kind to overreact.”
Thank God for the common sense of the working man. A plague (avian flu?) on his supposed betters!