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The “Tuberculous Cattle Trust”: Disease Contagion in an Era of Regulatory Uncertainty

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  • Alan L. Olmstead
  • Paul W. Rhode

Abstract

By 1900 scientific breakthroughs revealed that bovine tuberculosis was a serious and growing threat to animal and human health. Early private and state initiatives in the U.S. to address the problem were often counterproductive because they increased the incentives for the interstate trade of diseased stock. Our investigation shows that just one unscrupulous dealer exposed thousands of dairy herds and families to the disease. The story bears on the broader economics literature because it helps explain the expanding federal role in regulating food safety. In this case regulations arose from genuine health concerns. Moreover, before the development strict regulatory policies, diagnostic innovations that could have helped prevent the spread of the disease actually made the operation of markets worse by increasing asymmetric information problems.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Olmstead & Paul W. Rhode, 2004. "The “Tuberculous Cattle Trust”: Disease Contagion in an Era of Regulatory Uncertainty," ICER Working Papers 16-2004, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:icr:wpicer:16-2004
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    File URL: http://www.bemservizi.unito.it/repec/icr/wp2004/Olmstead16-04.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Anderson, D. Mark & Charles, Kerwin Kofi & Rees, Daniel I., 2018. "Public Health Efforts and the Decline in Urban Mortality," IZA Discussion Papers 11773, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Marc Law & Gary D. Libecap, 2006. "The Determinants of Progressive Era Reform. The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906," NBER Chapters, in: Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, pages 319-342, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Alexander E. Saak & David A. Hennessy, 2018. "A model of reporting and controlling outbreaks by public health agencies," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 66(1), pages 21-64, July.
    4. D. Mark Anderson & Kerwin Kofi Charles & Daniel I. Rees, 2018. "Public Health Efforts and the Decline in Urban Mortality," NBER Working Papers 25027, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Anderson, D. Mark & Brown, Ryan & Charles, Kerwin Kofi & Rees, Daniel I., 2016. "The Effect of Occupational Licensing on Consumer Welfare: Early Midwifery Laws and Maternal Mortality," IZA Discussion Papers 10074, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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