John Woolman’s Remedies for a Disease
Until a century ago, the term “consumption” referred to the disease we now call tuberculosis (TB). The understanding was that the illness consumed the lungs, which was why people got a persistent cough and eventually coughed up blood. “Consumptive” people were often sent to sanatoriums in the hope of healing and to prevent the spread of the disease to others, but most died. There was no effective medical treatment until the mid-twentieth century. TB is now rare in the United States though it is still a problem in many poorer countries, including Honduras, where I live. At the same time, another type of disease called “consumption” has fully infected wealthy countries like the U.S. and is quickly spreading to other parts of the world. This is the disease of consuming too many products. I am afraid that, without adequate treatment, this illness will continue to consume individuals and societies until all good qualities in our cultures die.
On Wealth (May 2020)