Science Sets the West Apart

We have not lived longer, healthier or wealthier lives than at any other time in the history of mankind than we currently enjoy in Western society.  We are however at a tipping point with the first time potentially about to hit us where the next generation may actually have a shorter life expectancy than their parents as a consequence of  the obesity epidemic.   This to me illustrates that the greatest threat to our way of life is not external, it is indeed our own ignorance, idleness and apathy.


Prosperity while not equally shared in society has seen a massive improvement for all of society compared to generations past.  We live our lives here and now however and it’s easy to forget that our generation didn’t start out in life with microwaves, colour TV, automatic washing machines and iPhones.  That takeaway food was an exception and eating at a restaurant was a luxury…  Everything in life is relative but a little perspective and contemplation serves us well.

There is no doubt in my mind that while we have further to go and can do much better, we have come a long, long way to improving the lifestyle of mankind through the wonders of science and this has been possible through the economic rise of the West , the ability to share knowledge and ideas and have the latitude in a prosperous society to devote time and energy to scientific discovery.  Today is the anniversary of the day Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the  moon.  It was the 20th of July in the United States and the 21st here in Australia.

This week just gone, Australia received the first HD images from Pluto, the radio telescope at Parkes transmitted the first pictures of the Apollo 11 moon walk in 1969.

Parkes, in central western New South Wales, was the site of the first radio telescope to be built in Australia. Its completion in 1961 was the result of ten years of of negotiation between CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory staff, the Australian Government and significant American Scientific institutions, Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Affectionately dubbed “The Dish”, the telescope comprised a disc some 210 feet (64 m) in diameter, constructed of mesh woven from high-tensile strength steel designed to withstand a range of pressures. The total cost of construction was 800,000 Australian pounds.


Whether it is from investment by private corporations or tax payers dollars, the money has to come from the endeavours of enterprise.  No better example demonstrating this exists than the old USSR and today in Greece; centralised regulated economies run out of money.  Until the USSR passed the tipping point, it put the first man in space and everyone thought they were in the race to the moon.  You cannot continue to invest in science unless the conditions are set to allow enterprises to flourish, from wealth comes prosperity and the opportunity to either invest or be altruistic, either way knowledge and capability blossoms.

Our next challenge is both developing the knowledge to tackle obesity medically but more importantly, intellectually so that we beat it ourselves without clinical intervention.


Trevor Dixon

Chairman Small Business Foundation

For more on “Enterprise” – The Art of Freedom, visit:


The Benefits of Enterprise

An increased level of prosperity realised from the efforts of enterprise brings with it access to both modern medicines and the capacity to implement the social compact for the benefit of everyone.  Throughout the ages plagues and epidemics have killed millions of people up to 60% of the population in Europe in one case.  Today we worry about new diseases that we do not yet have cures for such as ebola and cancer but no longer fear things like the Bubonic Plague.

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Greater prosperity creates the means for businesses to invest in research to find cures and for governments to have the resources and authority to impose necessary imposts on society in order to control the environment and eliminate the means for disease to flourish.  An awareness of the benefits that come to everyone from the success of enterprises increasing prosperity in society is more important than any perceived inequity in an unequal sharing of the returns in business.

The 17th of July in 1900 was a Tuesday, and it was on that day that Sydney completed its Bubonic Plague cleansing operations following  a severe outbreak in the early part of the 20th century.  It began in January 1900 when 33-year-old Arthur Payne showed symptoms of Bubonic plague as a result of coming into contact with the disease at Central Wharf where he worked as a carter. Within eight months, 303 people had contracted the plague, and 103 of them had died.

Cleansing operations began in Sydney on 24 March. Extensive washing, liming, disinfecting and burning of property was undertaken, while buildings classified as slums were demolished in an attempt to rid the city of the rats spreading the disease. More than 44 000 rats were burned by rat-catchers. Wharves and docks were also cleared of silt, debris and sewerage.

The Cleansing Operations finished on 17 July 1900. However, ships continued to bring the disease to Australia, and between 1900 and 1925, there were twelve major outbreaks of Bubonic plague, with Sydney bearing the brunt of the disease. In all, 1371 cases were reported, along with 535 deaths – certainly far fewer than the deaths reported in some countries.

Bubonic plague is a zoonotic disease, circulating mainly in fleas on small rodents, and is one of three types of bacterial infections caused by Yersinia pestis (formerly known as Pasteurella pestis), that belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae. Without treatment, the bubonic plague kills about two thirds of infected humans within four days.

The key to preventing deaths from this disease is treatment with antibiotics and eradication of rat infestations that carry the fleas which transmit the plague.  Today we understand the importance of rat proofing buildings, preventing access to food and shelter by rodents through appropriate storage and disposal of food, garbage and refuse; and the importance of avoiding flea bites by use of insecticides and repellents.  Rat suppression by poisoning is carried out  when necessary to augment basic environmental sanitation measures along with measures to control fleas.   We control rats on ships and docks and in warehouses by rat proofing or periodic fumigation, combined when necessary with destruction of rats and their fleas in vessels and in cargoes, especially containerised cargoes, before shipment and on arrival from plague endemic locations.

In 2013 there was about 750 documented cases of plague which resulted in 126 deaths a far cry from the 24 million in the 14th century, all possible because of our access to modern medicine and knowledge.