Our Malady

Recommendation: Less relevant to non-Americans, this is still worth reading if you a) enjoy Snyder’s style or b) fancy a reminder of why universal healthcare is so crucial

Where to read: This is good commuter reading – short chapters, all fairly easily digested

Read with: A penicillin cocktail

In brief: I doubt this adds much to the debate about American health care but it’s an interesting read regardless.


Our Malady was written in the wake of Snyder’s own near fatal illness at the end of 2019 and his rage at this situation burns through every page. Snyder is, however, a historian not a medical professional and this shows – it is a near perfect polemic, but probably not a perfect critique of American health care.

The argument, in short, is that illness, the fear, the inequality, the poverty and the financial anxiety caused by the American health care system makes people less free. Similarly, the lack of social services and protections enjoyed by most people in the rest of the developed world such as sick leave, parental leave and access to state-subsidised child care, give Americans fewer choices, less free time and less freedom.

The Washington Post‘s review makes the point, fairly I think, that this text does not really add any new arguments. The link between freedom and health care, and the general failings of the American health care system more broadly, are favourite subjects of much general punditry. Snyder is wonderfully articulate, however, and his work is always a compelling read so it’s not something I particularly mind.

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