The Corner

General Washington and Doctor Keynes

The Democrats’ busily futile attempts to revive America’s economy remind me of the death of George Washington. On December 12, 1799, he spent five hours riding around his plantation on a cold, wet day. The next day he grew progressively sicker, and on the 14th, three doctors were summoned. Each had his own idea of how to treat the patient, but all agreed that one thing was unquestionably called for: bleeding.

Over the course of the day, Washington was bled four separate times, losing about two quarts in all. (For good measure, the doctors threw in assorted purgatives and emetics, along with blisters, plasters, and other supposed cures.) After all that bleeding, it’s no surprise that Washington died shortly before midnight.

To be fair, there really wasn’t much doctors could do to help a patient in the 19th century, particularly when he had a nasty virus, as seems to have been true with Washington. And bleeding was not entirely useless; in some cases it led to cures, or seemed to, and medical consensus recommended it strongly. Since nothing else seemed to work, you can’t blame Washington’s doctors for giving it a try.

Still, there comes a point where enough is enough, and that point arrives well before you withdraw two quarts of blood from a sick 67-year-old man. I’m not saying that America’s economy could soon be as dead as George Washington, but all things considered, it’s in pretty frail condition. And with the Democrats trying to bleed it still further with their fourth stimulus package, perhaps it’s time for them to stop all the strenuous exertions, leave the patient alone, and see if he can recover on his own.

Fred Schwarz — Fred Schwarz is a deputy managing editor of National Review.

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