What We’re Reading


College enrollment in the United States has been growing almost continually since the Civil War. It kept growing even after the baby boomers finished college, because a rising percentage of young people were enrolling. But the 150-plus-year boom appears to have ended about a decade ago. Undergraduate enrollment fell 8 percent between 2010 and 2018.


If you survive long enough, maybe greatness eventually becomes you. One of the things I think that sort of is perhaps underestimated, is if you want to live forever, maybe don’t start thinking about studying centenarians, instead, work out how to not die of a DUI or drunk driving or anybody else smoking 20 cigarettes a day.

Social media:

At that conference, I talked about the role of social media in breaking down what social scientists call “pluralistic ignorance”—the belief that one is alone in one’s views when in reality everyone has been collectively silenced. That, I said, was why social media had fomented so much rebellion: people who were previously isolated in their dissent found and drew strength from one another.


Think of the factors that determine a society’s health as a pyramid, Frieden says, in which the things that have the biggest impact on the most people are afforded the most space. Social policies that mitigate economic inequality would be at the base of the pyramid, followed immediately by public-health interventions like improved sanitation, automobile-and-workplace-safety laws, clean-water initiatives and tobacco-control programs. Clinical medicine would be closer to the top. “Now consider the way that we value and prioritize those factors,” Frieden says. “It’s almost completely inverted.” Less than 3 percent of the country’s $3.6 trillion total annual health care bill is spent on public health; a vast majority of the rest goes to clinical medicine.

Covid-19 vaccine:

When you get a vaccine, you get a vaccine campaign. We have around 160 vaccines today in various stages of trial or hypothesis or funding, with maybe a dozen candidates emerging. Several are from China. China is looking at its ability to rapidly produce a vaccine as a demonstration of modernity, scientific acumen, and a little bit of redemption, because they were the place at which Covid emerged. When one or two or three of those vaccines are declared workable and we have made sufficient quantities, you don’t get rainbows and unicorns. What you will most likely get is a food fight. If you were in the middle of a goddamned pandemic and you saw the first stirrings of possibility of a vaccine, you would hold a global meeting, bring all the countries and organizations together, and decide on a plan to divvy it up, I would hope, for equitable distribution. Others might hope for strategic distribution. Where will you put the vaccine so that it will stop the whole pandemic quicker? Some would lobby for an America-first, or a China-first, policy of the use of the vaccine. Others would argue, hey, whatever country makes it gets it first. But whatever, there would be that conversation among all the funders and the distributors, everybody in. You would expect that to happen, wouldn’t you?

Have a good weekend, stay safe.