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Megan McArdle

No Antibiotics, No Sexual Revolution

No antibiotics, no sexual revolution
Without antibiotics, the West could never have been won. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Without antibiotics, the West could never have been won. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Last night, I had a drink with Peter Huber, who has a terrific new book out on how the legal system is holding back medical innovation. We chatted about a lot of things, but one thing we discussed was how antibiotics have been the unseen driver of so many developments in the modern world.

Most of them are medical, like transplant surgery, and I've written about those before. But here's one you might not have thought of: the sexual revolution. Most of us, if we think about it at all, probably attribute the rise in premarital sex to The Pill, among other factors. But before the birth control pill, there was another invention that was just as necessary: antibiotics.