Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Politics and the Human Immune System

This post has nothing to do with economics (except in the peripheral sense that everything does). This is a bad political analogy coupled with some philosophy. However, as the author of this blog, I have decided to take liberties. It's my blog, and I can do what I want.

Everything has to defend itself. Sometimes this protection is in numbers, and sometimes this protection occurs as a result of individual action. The defense can be against both internal and external insults. However, everything from the smallest cell to the largest empire employs some method of defense.

In the human body, we have the immune system as the primary player in self-defense, with some peripheral actions by different organ systems. The immune system tries to protect the whole body, while organ systems, such as the kidneys, have mechanisms like autoregulation to protect themselves. In this case, the whole body needs the immune system in order to survive. However, the selfish autoregulation of the kidneys is also important, as the body doesn't do as well without them.

In our industrial society, we have a government that is in charge of protecting everyone. The police protect against internal insults, and the military protects against external insults. Those of you familiar with my highly libertarian views might note that I have never suggested getting rid of these institutions. Someone will have the guns, and It might as well be a group made up of my neighbors. Similarly, we have individual defense models (everything from private gun ownership to lawsuits) in order to protect ourselves individually.

To stretch the analogy even further, the immune system is necessary, but too much of it is a really bad thing. On the extremes, a person can suffer from AIDS or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Both are devastating, and a balance needs to be maintained. Similarly, too much government is a bad thing and too little can also be a bad thing. On one extreme, we have a Liberia, and on the other hand we have a Communist Russia. When the defense mechanism becomes self-destructive, it needs to be relieved of some of its duty.

Similarly, it often creates a problem when the defense system tries to move into a realm that isn't defense. As an example, when your immune system goes beyond its usual minor impact on the CV system and creates a systemic inflammation, it often leads to shock. In this case, the defense system has taken over a self-defending system. Rather than protecting it from insults, your immune system is actually trying to control vascular dilation (Okay, so maybe it's not intentional, but you get the point). In this case, the powerful immune system has the guns and the vasculature doesn't stand a chance. The same thing happens when the government moves into the economy.

All of our blood cells come from the same precursors, but they serve vastly different functions. Our Megakaryocytes produce platelets. These are important in early healing. We also produce neutraphils, and these are important in fighting off invaders but very poor at healing. You wouldn't want a neutraphil trying to be a platelet. Things would get worse. Similarly, you wouldn't want the government playing doctor or oil tycoon or philanthropist. The government has a specialized function in defense.

When it comes to defense, this also has to be controlled. At the founding of the US, it was understood that too much government created more problems than it was worth. Much like lupus, when the government starts attacking everything and everybody, it's a bad thing. It needs to be curtailed. As many of my readers are current or future physicians, I urge you to look at what the government does in relationship to how you practice. Are they defending you, or is the current environment in medical care nothing but a raging case of Type III Hypersensitivity.

Okay, terrible analogy and rant over.



Anonymous Half MD said...

I see someone pulled Lupus as a learning issue this week. My own analogy is that the government has gone hyperuricemic: too much leads to stiffness and pain with progressive movements.

6:44 PM  
Blogger MiamiMed said...


That's great

9:21 AM  
Anonymous logos said...

I like it.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great connections, I like it!

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Viagra Sildenafil said...

LOL that's great I really like it.

3:38 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home