In a short article for the Reason Foundation, I distinguish between the economic approach to public health and the contemporary “public health” movement, which is a political movement. Two short excerpts:

Traditionally, public health deals with a general class of public goods related to the prevention and control of health events that are in everybody’s interest to prevent or control but that no private producer will organize because of the free-rider problem. An epidemic—the rapid spread of a contagious disease—is the paradigmatic case.

The public health movement, as it developed over the last century or two, is very different:

The public health movement, however, is generally suspicious of individual preferences and individual choices. It is openly opposed to the primacy of individual choices. Its ideology favors collective choices, that is, decisions made by the apparatus of government.