Demons of Illness and Poverty Stalking the Lucky Gods, by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1884. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Herbert R. Cole Collection.


Volume XIII, Number 3 | summer 2020


“People think this pandemic is an accident,” wrote Nassim Nicholas Taleb in May 2020 of the Covid-19 crisis. “It is not. It is part of the system we have built. When you read the history of England, Italy, and the Middle East, you read of frequent quarantines and lockdowns because of sieges and plagues. These were built into the economic landscape and into the costs of every merchant. So the cost of the pandemic and future pandemics should be set against gross domestic product figures. We must realize our real economic growth is much lower than our annual figures suggest because the disasters wipe out the growth of preceding years.”

Diseases are not immutable entities but dynamic social constructions that have biographies of their own.

—Robert P. Hudson, 1983