The House of Falk: The Paranoid Style in American Health Politics

Alan Derickson

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23 Scopus citations


The onset of the Cold War had a blighting effect on the campaign for a national health insurance program in the United States. In the highly charged atmosphere of the late 1940s, proponents of social insurance spent considerable time and energy denying that they were agents of foreign powers. In one widely promoted conspiratorial formulation, some on the right traced the origins of subversion not only to Moscow but also to Geneva, Switzerland, home of the International Labor Organization. In the fractiously partisan context of the period, conservative political leaders amplified concerns over disloyal bureaucrats' manipulating the levers of legislative politics as well as the design of health policy. One federal official in particular, I. S. Falk, became the object of outright demonization. The paranoid attacks took their toll on the drive to extend social protection. The reformers' difficulties suggest the limitations of heavy dependence on bureaucratic expertise in the pursuit of health security.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1836-1843
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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