To live and die (Money or Health in Alaska)

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Along a rough gravel road that follows the bed of a long-abandoned railway deep into one of the last great wilderness areas in North America, coronavirus COVID-19 has brought to the fore the global conflict between two basic necessities of life: physical health and economic health.

A hundred years ago, this now wild place was Alaska’s industrial heartland. At the end of the long-gone Copper River and Northwestern Highway snaking north for 196 miles from the tiny port of Cordova through a countryside home to more wildlife than people, the rumble of the Kennecott copper mine and mill echoed across the glacier-filled vastness of the Wrangell Mountains.

Here lived a real-world version of Galt’s Gulch long before it sprang to life in Libertarian author Ayn Rand’s best-selling, 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

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