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Within Reason

A Liberal Public Health for an Illiberal Time

A provocative chronicle of how US public health has strayed from its liberal roots.

The Covid-19 response was a crucible of politics and public health—a volatile combination that produced predictably bad results. As scientific expertise became entangled with political motivations, the public-health establishment found itself mired in political encampment.

It was, as Sandro Galea argues, a crisis of liberalism: a retreat from the principles of free speech, open debate, and the pursuit of knowledge through reasoned inquiry that should inform the work of public health.

Across fifty essays, Within Reason chronicles how public health became enmeshed in the insidious social trends that accelerated under Covid-19. Galea challenges this intellectual drift towards intolerance and absolutism while showing how similar regressions from reason undermined social progress during earlier eras. Within Reason builds an incisive case for a return to critical, open inquiry as a guiding principle for the future public health we want—and a future we must work to protect.

304 pages | 1 line drawing | 6 x 9


Political Science: Public Policy

Table of Contents


What Stories Will We Tell about COVID-19?
Liberty and Health?
The Economics of Illiberalism
How to Get Healthier and Wealthier during a Crisis
Decision-Making in an Age of Social Media
Borders in an Age of Pandemics
UFOs, COVID-19, and the Return of Radical Uncertainty
Why Do We Tell the Stories We Tell?
The History of Soccer, the Butterfly Effect, and Public Health
The Ongoing Challenge of Race
Not in the Name of Public Health
Health and the Opportunity to Think Freely
Thinking in Groups or Thinking for Ourselves: In Praise of Iconoclasm
The Challenge of Slow-Burning Threats
The Ineluctable Role of the Faceless Bureaucrat
Sectarianism and the Public’s Health
Health in an Era of Resurgent Great Power Conflict
“For Our Own Good”

Why Health?
The Spherical Cow Problem
Public Health and the Temptations of Power
Not Our Place
The Radical Importance of Acknowledging Progress
Who’s Left?
Too Far, or Not Far Enough?
A Case against Moralism in Public Health
Resisting the Allure of Moral Grandstanding
Resisting Our Suburban Impulses
Checking Our Blind Spots
We Need to Talk about Class
Public Health and Tradition
My Bias in Favor of Living

Mercy and Our Present Moment
A Case for Good Faith Argument
“One Does Have Joys”
A Playbook for Balancing the Moral and Empirical Cases for Health
The False Choice of Diversity and Inclusion versus the Pursuit of Excellence
Our Place in the Natural Order of Things
What Do We Want from Our Political System?
The Role of Experts and Community Voices Both
The Aesthetics of a Healthier World
Intellectual Cross-Training toward a Healthier World
The Incredible Potential of New Technology
The Consent of the Governed
Spending Smarter
A Populist Public Health
In Praise of Objective Reality
The Next Generation: The Kids Are (Probably) All Right

In Conclusion
Toward a Liberal Public Health


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