Beginning in January 1918, an influenza pandemic sometimes dubbed "the Spanish Flu" circled the globe. It would eventually kill an estimated 675,000 people in the United States alone. This pandemic occurred at a time when progressives were pushing this country to adopt a system of national health care.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Irving Fisher, a professor of economics at Yale University, that appeared in La Follettes Magazine (later The Progressive) for January 1917, more than a full year before the pandemic started.

We Need Universal Health Insurance

At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without universal health insurance. For a generation the enlightened nations of Europe have one after another discussed the idea and followed discussion by adoption. It has constituted an important part of the policy and career of some of Europe's greatest statesmen.

It is the poor whose need of health insurance is greatest. Millions of American workmen cannot at present avail themselves of necessary medical, surgical, and nursing aid. Health insurance is like elementary education. In order that it shall function properly it must be universal.

Certain interests which would be, or think they would be, adversely affected by health insurance have made the specious plea that it is an un-American interference with liberty. They forgot that compulsory education, though at first opposed on these very grounds, is highly American and highly liberative.

It is by the compelling hand of the law that society secures liberation from the evils of crime, vice, ignorance, accidents, unemployment, invalidity, and disease.

The influenza pandemic, which first appeared in the United States in the spring of 1918 on military bases among soldiers returning from World War I, soon spread across the country. Eventually it would infect nearly one third of the U.S. population.

By the summer of 1919, the spread had significantly declined, but the social and political ramifications remained well into the presidential election of 1920. What follows is from a talk by Professor John R. Commons that was printed in La Follettes issue for October 1920.

Give Health Care to the Poor

The great...

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