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Heavy Hand

History is not “history”; it is with us today. That is, the past constrains the present. This is obvious in one way: Conditions that developed long ago continue to shape our lives. We are ruled by old laws; we drive streets laid out in decades and centuries past; we operate technologies invented by earlier generations.

Lib. of Congress 1902

But history constrains us in a less obvious way, too: Even plans, customs, practices, and situations that long ago ended have enduring consequences far into the future.

This thought was stimulated by a recent report on the question, Why is life expectancy for older people — especially women — growing more slowly in the United States than it is in comparable countries? Why are the American elderly falling behind in the race to a long life?

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