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Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impacts of the recent financial crisis, but many continue to ignore its disastrous effects on human health—and have even exacerbated them, by adopting harsh austerity measures and cutting key social programs at a time when constituents need them most. The result, as pioneering public health experts Dav Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impacts of the recent financial crisis, but many continue to ignore its disastrous effects on human health—and have even exacerbated them, by adopting harsh austerity measures and cutting key social programs at a time when constituents need them most. The result, as pioneering public health experts David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu reveal in this provocative book, is that many countries have turned their recessions into veritable epidemics, ruining or extinguishing thousands of lives in a misguided attempt to balance budgets and shore up financial markets. Yet sound alternative policies could instead help improve economies and protect public health at the same time. In The Body Economic, Stuckler and Basu mine data from around the globe and throughout history to show how government policy becomes a matter of life and death during financial crises. In a series of historical case studies stretching from 1930s America, to Russia and Indonesia in the 1990s, to present-day Greece, Britain, Spain, and the U.S., Stuckler and Basu reveal that governmental mismanagement of financial strife has resulted in a grim array of human tragedies, from suicides to HIV infections. Yet people can and do stay healthy, and even get healthier, during downturns. During the Great Depression, U.S. deaths actually plummeted, and today Iceland, Norway, and Japan are happier and healthier than ever, proof that public wellbeing need not be sacrificed for fiscal health. Full of shocking and counterintuitive revelations and bold policy recommendations, The Body Economic offers an alternative to austerity—one that will prevent widespread suffering, both now and in the future.


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Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impacts of the recent financial crisis, but many continue to ignore its disastrous effects on human health—and have even exacerbated them, by adopting harsh austerity measures and cutting key social programs at a time when constituents need them most. The result, as pioneering public health experts Dav Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impacts of the recent financial crisis, but many continue to ignore its disastrous effects on human health—and have even exacerbated them, by adopting harsh austerity measures and cutting key social programs at a time when constituents need them most. The result, as pioneering public health experts David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu reveal in this provocative book, is that many countries have turned their recessions into veritable epidemics, ruining or extinguishing thousands of lives in a misguided attempt to balance budgets and shore up financial markets. Yet sound alternative policies could instead help improve economies and protect public health at the same time. In The Body Economic, Stuckler and Basu mine data from around the globe and throughout history to show how government policy becomes a matter of life and death during financial crises. In a series of historical case studies stretching from 1930s America, to Russia and Indonesia in the 1990s, to present-day Greece, Britain, Spain, and the U.S., Stuckler and Basu reveal that governmental mismanagement of financial strife has resulted in a grim array of human tragedies, from suicides to HIV infections. Yet people can and do stay healthy, and even get healthier, during downturns. During the Great Depression, U.S. deaths actually plummeted, and today Iceland, Norway, and Japan are happier and healthier than ever, proof that public wellbeing need not be sacrificed for fiscal health. Full of shocking and counterintuitive revelations and bold policy recommendations, The Body Economic offers an alternative to austerity—one that will prevent widespread suffering, both now and in the future.

30 review for The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    A clear indictment of conservative economic theology that has deadly consequences for the most vulnerable in society.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen Mcgovern

    Solid book/ read in a few hours. The basic principle of the book is to show how government spending on certain types of social safety net programs can keep people healthy AND benefit the economy. This runs counter to some popular and political thinking on the topic, so the authors collect and report data and evidence to make their case. I appreciated how they wrote in a view that would reach a popular audience but relied on their findings culled from some peer-reviewed pubs. This makes some of t Solid book/ read in a few hours. The basic principle of the book is to show how government spending on certain types of social safety net programs can keep people healthy AND benefit the economy. This runs counter to some popular and political thinking on the topic, so the authors collect and report data and evidence to make their case. I appreciated how they wrote in a view that would reach a popular audience but relied on their findings culled from some peer-reviewed pubs. This makes some of the more complicated sections easier to read And understand, but there are still a decent amount of stats. Ultimately I think this book would give anyone a basic understanding of the macro level links between public policy, health, and the economy. I appreciated all of the references at the end but would have also enjoyed the actual data tables as an appendix.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robert Davidson

    Very concise research by the two Authors confirms what most empathetic people would think of Government Austerity programs. They hurt the most vulnerable and have a major impact on their physical and mental health.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maukan

    Whaaaaaaaaaaat? Funding provided by the government for public programs reduces unemployment, homelessness, healthcare costs and actually improves the economy at faster rates than radical cuts to government services? Which in turn promotes growth by increasing citizens marginal propensity to consume, which in turn helps them become active members in the economy? You don’t say? A truly harrowing book on the devastating impact austerity has on the citizens. The people least responsibility for reckl Whaaaaaaaaaaat? Funding provided by the government for public programs reduces unemployment, homelessness, healthcare costs and actually improves the economy at faster rates than radical cuts to government services? Which in turn promotes growth by increasing citizens marginal propensity to consume, which in turn helps them become active members in the economy? You don’t say? A truly harrowing book on the devastating impact austerity has on the citizens. The people least responsibility for reckless practices by the banking elite get hurt the most. The book is a data oriented approach showcasing the different policy routes countries went during financial meltdowns. How it affects healthcare, housing, employment, anxiety, suicide rates and many more factors. My one critique is that the author did not criticize Obama care because it was better than the current system but it’s obvious Obama care was a policy failure. It gave Republicans the ammo needed in the mid terms of 2010 and 2014 and lead to a massacre in 2016. Don’t get me wrong Obama care was an improvement but a moderate improvement at the very least by leaving the for profit system in place it still lead to large increases in costs, nevertheless it was still and still is better than any republican plan but that doesn’t make it good. Incrementalism leads to republican surges, hopefully in 2020 we get a candidate that actually stands up to the for profit corrupt practices of the insurance industry, who have price gouged the American people.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    How Neoliberalism kills Imagine Tom, a man who works from 9 to 5 in an office for a private company dealing with highly explosive equipment. He's done a really good job today managing to deliver over 240 dangerous chemicals to hospitals and clinics all over the country. However, he arrives back home to find out through the news that a roaring chaos is emerging within the confines of the financial market. What the heck! The prices of insurances are falling, the housing market is plummeting and the How Neoliberalism kills Imagine Tom, a man who works from 9 to 5 in an office for a private company dealing with highly explosive equipment. He's done a really good job today managing to deliver over 240 dangerous chemicals to hospitals and clinics all over the country. However, he arrives back home to find out through the news that a roaring chaos is emerging within the confines of the financial market. What the heck! The prices of insurances are falling, the housing market is plummeting and the entire economy is soaring. The news bulletin stops to broadcast a live speech by the president. “It is hard times, dear Americans, Wall Street is undergoing profound changes and the financial crisis is imminent, however we do hope to have recovered soon by the end of this week' or something along those lines. It is 2007, and Tom is waiting, thinking about what this could mean for him. He's worried. He has two children and a partner with whom he shares their first house paid for by the mortgage they obtained from the bank... follow my review and summary at http://www.chaufamarxista.com/how-neo...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Always useful to have contributions from various fields; in this case, public health researchers describing the social consequences of austerity (cutting public services in order to "recover" from financial crises); related read: humanitarian physician Paul Farmer's "Pathologies of Power". Placing austerity in the context of Financial policy and crises (caused by predatory lending of Financial Capitalism crippling Labor and Industry) reveals the Financial sector actively seeking austerity for th Always useful to have contributions from various fields; in this case, public health researchers describing the social consequences of austerity (cutting public services in order to "recover" from financial crises); related read: humanitarian physician Paul Farmer's "Pathologies of Power". Placing austerity in the context of Financial policy and crises (caused by predatory lending of Financial Capitalism crippling Labor and Industry) reveals the Financial sector actively seeking austerity for their own gains. Debt is their business. The feudalism of usury and land/monopoly rent is the "unearned income" that even Classical economists wanted to "free the market" from. -Michael Hudson ("Killing the Host", "J is for Junk Economics") details how Financial Capitalism derailed reforms and has both Labor and Industry in debt peonage. -David Graeber ("Debt: the First 5000 Years", "The Democracy Project") challenges the one-sided morality of debt and revives social imagination on what an economy is actually for and how we can organize our decision-making.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tara Brabazon

    I hoped this would be a tremendous book. And it is. What we can learn from the Global Financial Crisis is that how 'business' has been conducted in the past has failed. The continual emphasis of the economic over the social - or 'growth' over justice - has failed. It is time to think differently. It is time to be different. David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu show that one of the primary costs of governmental austerity is preventative health policies. By hyper-fetishizing the present budget, the futur I hoped this would be a tremendous book. And it is. What we can learn from the Global Financial Crisis is that how 'business' has been conducted in the past has failed. The continual emphasis of the economic over the social - or 'growth' over justice - has failed. It is time to think differently. It is time to be different. David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu show that one of the primary costs of governmental austerity is preventative health policies. By hyper-fetishizing the present budget, the future is mortgaged. The authors show that the men and women who lost their houses and jobs also lost their health. The cost of that loss is paid in suicides, strokes, heart attacks and disability. This book argues for a full economic and social costing of austerity. When this real budget is configured, Iceland becomes a model for a new way of thinking and living.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adam Azraei

    Living in Malaysia and seeing the extent of the effects of the reform on social services shed some light to governance in Malaysia. Although some of the actions conducted by the Malaysian government at that time was highly provocative, it's decision of a solid no to IMF was indeed a wise decision. The book solidifies what successful government do to help spur the economy. It provides the facts and evidence to us. However, it is important that books like this be read as in modern democracy, where Living in Malaysia and seeing the extent of the effects of the reform on social services shed some light to governance in Malaysia. Although some of the actions conducted by the Malaysian government at that time was highly provocative, it's decision of a solid no to IMF was indeed a wise decision. The book solidifies what successful government do to help spur the economy. It provides the facts and evidence to us. However, it is important that books like this be read as in modern democracy, where the people choose the leaders. Anyway, it was crafted very nice. I had the page turning until the end of each experiment. And the data was properly broken down and analysed that I have very little qualm in taking it. All in all, a must read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Hoekstra

    Digesting a Book. Perhaps you'd rather read it on my blog: kyltra.tumblr.com "The price of austerity is calculated in human lives. And these lost lives won't return when the stock market bounces back." This is good, this is necessary, this is important. Plainly written and concise, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu get to point. With more than sufficient data they tear down once more the austerity delusion and direct attention towards our collective health and wellbeing, surely the most important thi Digesting a Book. Perhaps you'd rather read it on my blog: kyltra.tumblr.com "The price of austerity is calculated in human lives. And these lost lives won't return when the stock market bounces back." This is good, this is necessary, this is important. Plainly written and concise, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu get to point. With more than sufficient data they tear down once more the austerity delusion and direct attention towards our collective health and wellbeing, surely the most important things in our lives. Stuckler and Basu argue that care for the people should be the primary concern of the state in economic crisis, rather than a fetish for reducing the deficit and increasing GDP, which in the words of Bobby Kennedy “measures everything... except that which makes life worthwhile.” They reveal that investing in welfare is good for economies and helps them to emerge much stronger from financial crises than through austerity programs, and without the needless tolls of misery, memories of which linger for decades. While Iceland faced the greatest banking crisis in history and, rejecting a dose of IMF-sponsored austerity, upheld their social welfare and improved - Greece became ‘Europe’s guinea pig for austerity’. Though the Greek economy was initially as bad as Iceland’s, the dramatic cuts meant that the nation and its people suffered, and continue to suffer, significantly more. This pattern is attested in the century of data the authors spent ten years pouring through, presenting to governments, and writing about. In the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Malaysia succeeded where others failed. South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia had struggled alongside Malaysia, but after they accepted IMF bailouts in exchange for massive austerity on health and social services they suffered a significant increase in poverty, infectious disease and death. Thailand suffered 50,000 avoidable deaths, its progress towards eradicating HIV was erased; suicide rates increased 60% in Thailand and increased 45% in South Korea, which also saw poverty rise amongst the population from 11% to 23%. The IMF cut food subsidies in 1998 and advised privatisation, which encouraged currency speculation and resulted in further harm to the people. Malaysia, meanwhile, had also suffered the GDP hit and recession which had put its people at risk of poverty, but poverty there only increased from 7 to 8%. Malaysia was the first to see economic recovery and soon met the IMF’s economic targets. And yet they hadn’t even participated. They had refused IMF assistance, invested $7 billion into social welfare and limited foreign speculation. It must be hard for the present political right to challenge the view that while recession put South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia at risk of poverty, the austerity response turned it into a disaster. And yet the IMF had experimented like this before, in post-Soviet Russia. To ensure a swift transition to a capitalist market economy in the early 1990s, international powers urged ‘shock therapy’ - chiefly a political strategy to prevent the return of Communism by massively liberalising (releasing the prices of goods to the market) and privatising Russia’s economy. Harvard economists planned to privatised over 200,000 Soviet enterprises in 500 days (for comparison: Thatcher privatised 20 large British utilities companies). The same vices that would befall Asia and Europe were felt in Russia, and hard. Per capita income fell by over 30%, Russia’s purchasing power fell to the USA’s 1897 level, wealth was transferred through privatisation to Communist Party elites, there was a massive rise in inequality, poverty, job loss and corruption. 10 million Russian men died as a result and life expectancy remains lower than pre-1991. By contrast, health increased in Poland where Shock Therapy wasn’t enforced, and China also went gradual and has had massive economic growth and longer life expectancies. Russia was thus crippled by austerity and plunged into another ‘Time of Troubles’. As a result we have a nation led by a man emulating the great unifiers of Russia’s past since its inception as Rus, seeking to forge a new identity based on nationalist and anti-Western themes, striking aggressively from Georgia to Ukraine to recover what was lost. Recurring across those states which imposed austerity, minorities were scapegoated to divert anger from the government. The fiscal ideology of the UK Conservative Party prompted radical cuts in public health, and its leader David Cameron explained to the British people that a huge expense was being wasted in disability benefits and pension fraud, especially amongst immigrants. Inconveniently, the Department of Work said only 1% of pensions were fraudulent. So the government spent $400m hiring a firm to meet its pension-cutting targets. Those who had their pensions cut tended to actually need them and had spent their lives paying into them, so as predicted, deaths rose. Elsewhere, the Greek government denied its health crises in the wake of massive austerity measures and blamed rocketing HIV on prostitutes, and continued to cut. In reality, they had created an epicentre for disease by cutting welfare - often explained as directed towards the same sort of supposed fraudsters that David Cameron rallies against. It’s worth mentioning that despite the cuts, Greece’s economy was still not improving by its third austerity program. As Stuckler and Basu enlighten us, the deterioration of public health in the wake of recession is not inevitable. We’ve seen in Iceland, Malaysia, 1930s New Deal states, that health improved in the wake of recession - with investment into welfare. Recession combined with austerity, however, produces the “perfect storm” for misery - seen across the world for the last century, from Depression-era American south to 1990s Indonesia, post-Soviet Russia, and Great Recession Europe. Health can improve with stimulus. The real danger isn’t recession, but austerity which fails to stimulate the economy while cutting welfare spending, which is rather like “repeatedly hitting yourself in the face for a few minutes” as Paul Krugman argued in this piece. With austerity in Greece came resonances of Depression-era politics, as in pre-WW2 Europe, which threatened a rise in fascism, racism and more misery. In the UK, too, we’ve seen the rise of UKIP, a party with spectacularly appalling representatives which had enjoyed varied support - until the right-wing press diligently rallied behind the Conservatives when Rupert Murdoch yanked the leash. Given Germany’s experience with post-WW1 austerity (which contributed to the rise of Nazism) and post-WW2 American stimulus, its involvement in the Greek financial crisis is bewildering. Well, until you realise that the IMF and the European Central Bank were funnelling money back to the German, and American, French and British, creditors who built Greece’s bubble in the first place. Thus “Greece’s bailout was using public funds not to help Greece but to rescue the poorly invested private money of the world’s banking elite.” Through the course of The Body Economic, Stuckler and Basu stab at austerity as a political ideology spawned in the belief that small government is good for business, and therefore good for the state. How else to explain the persistence of austerity as a treatment to recession? So it is revealing that even as the USA, even as the IMF, have retreated from advocating austerity, the Tories continue to cripple public services. Do they really believe that the way out of crisis is to run a budget surplus to inspire confidence in investors - a strategy based on repeated assertion rather than evidence? I regret not only that the British Conservative Party is committed to the path of austerity, but that Labour only limply resists. Though it ought to have been as Paul Krugman argued in his Guardian piece ("The case for cuts is a lie. Why does Britain believe it?") austerity wasn't even a major issue in the 2015 election. Looking at England’s election results you’d be forgiven if you thought that nobody listened to Stuckler and Basu and the vast literature which decries austerity. But look to Scotland and the SNP who postured with a populist, anti-austerity message dominate. 60,000 people are expected to attend the End Austerity Now demonstration in London on 20 June. They are outraged by the hypocrisy of it all, the lack of compassion. David Cameron likes to remind us that we are a civilised nation. But what civilised nation, asked the founder of the NHS, fails to “put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration?” We are participating in a clinical trial we never signed up for. We should find inspiration in the history of economic crises to remind ourselves that the world has seen these disasters before, and despite having been repeated time and again, austerity only ever proved itself worthy of repetition by the ignorant. The human costs of austerity were clear when this book was written. They’re clear now, as the Conservatives prepare to cut even more. And they’ve been clear for a long time. Before losing out to FDR and his promised New Deal, President Hoover had advised the depressed American people to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" and to spontaneously become driven, self-sufficient and pleased with their lot. People today have been told the same things. ‘Big Society’ in the UK was an attempt by the Conservatives to encourage community compassion and initiative to make up for the government’s deficiency; unmasked as yet another mechanism to reduce the role of the state through spending cuts. This advice is not just out of touch to those hit hardest by recession, but merciless and cruel. As Dimitris Christoulas declared on the Greek Parliament steps, before he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger: "I am not committing suicide. They are killing me."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Grant Brookes

    The great strength, and slight limitation of this book are both captured in a few sentences in the Conclusion: "With stakes so high, we cannot entrust our decisions to ideologies and beliefs. As the mathematician W. Deming said: “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” Often politicians on both the left and the right peddle ideas based on preconceived social theories and economic ideologies, not facts, figures and hard evidence." The authors’ use of facts, figures and hard evidence in “The The great strength, and slight limitation of this book are both captured in a few sentences in the Conclusion: "With stakes so high, we cannot entrust our decisions to ideologies and beliefs. As the mathematician W. Deming said: “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” Often politicians on both the left and the right peddle ideas based on preconceived social theories and economic ideologies, not facts, figures and hard evidence." The authors’ use of facts, figures and hard evidence in “The Body Economic” allows them to convincingly demolish conventional neoliberal wisdom and establish a compelling case for their policy alternatives. There were no slips, no point where I felt their arguments were weak or unsupported by data. Almost a third of the book is taken up with references. I checked some of them out. They were consistently relevant and high quality sources. The structure of their argument, examining population health through a series of economic crises since the Great Depression, and comparing health outcomes for austerity versus reflationary policy responses, is intellectually elegant. At the same time, the book is beautifully written. It reminded me of the work of another brilliant author, who is referenced at the back – Naomi Klein. The frequent use of an immediately-relatable vignette which expresses and illustrates the dynamics of a complex system is a common element. I believe that the life experience of David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu – which they briefly describe in the Preface – were critical to the book’s exceptional power. “Both of us have experienced financial vulnerability”, they write, “and the health consequences that attend it”. Leading epidemiologists with access to the great resources at Oxford and Stanford Universities who can say the same, are few and far between. But facts do not speak for themselves. They require interpretation. And data is only available when, and in the formats that it’s collected. So despite the strong assertion in the book’s Conclusion, there can be no escape from “ideologies and beliefs”. “Facts, figures and hard evidence” are not some more reliable alternative to “theories”. Theories are essential in generating questions for scientific investigation. They shape the choices about which data to collect and analyse. You can’t have the one, and not the other - which appears to what the authors proclaim, in the quote above. And the problem isn’t “preconceived social theories and economic ideologies”, per se. It’s when politicians keep clinging to beliefs even after they’re disconfirmed by evidence. The authors’ belief that they are eschewing “theories” actually means they’re captive to their own unexamined (or underexamined) theoretical assumptions. The clearest evidence of this is in the one place where they do cite a theoretical source: “The Nobel Prize-winning economist, Kenneth Arrow, had found in a seminal 1963 paper that markets often fail to deliver affordable, high-quality healthcare”. This paper may be credible, but it is definitely a “preconceived social theory” of the kind they explicitly disavow. Critically examining the book from this perspective, the recurrent passing mentions of John Maynard Keynes take on a greater significance. “Healthcare is different from other market good like cans of tuna”, the authors assert. The belief that a market economy is essentially benign to health, and that the problem lies mainly with policy settings within this framework, runs through the book – despite an absence of supporting data, and even given some evidence to the contrary. It’s true that the book does not cite evidence of harmful health effects from production and distribution of cans of tuna within a market system, but it does appear to show that a market economy in housing, banking and finance, and employment (which doesn’t leave much excluded) is harmful to health. Scandinavian examples of “Active Labour Market Policies” in the book, which have successfully mitigated some of this harm, could have been conceptualised equally well as a move towards “Decentralised Economic Planning”. But the authors’ aversion to “theories” leaves them unable to do this, or to join the dots in a way which might allow them to challenge their own “economic ideologies”. In this respect, despite a certain fuzziness, Naomi Klein’s work is clearly stronger. Notwithstanding the proprtion of this review taken up with this point, it is a small gripe, really. As previously stated, “The Body Economic” is a beautifully-written book, which reflects and will continue to inspire democratic efforts to demolish today’s most harmful prevailing economic ideologies. Highly, highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    1.5 stars There were a few parts early that I found interesting, especially regarding the Soviet cities, however that was not enough to help this book. The bias was too strong that it ruined credibility in my view. It read like a propaganda booklet or a sales pitch. It also ignored secondary and long term effects of policies. While there is valid criticism of how the IMF got involved in Europe and how banks that made risky loans were rewarded for helping create the recession, he draws wrong concl 1.5 stars There were a few parts early that I found interesting, especially regarding the Soviet cities, however that was not enough to help this book. The bias was too strong that it ruined credibility in my view. It read like a propaganda booklet or a sales pitch. It also ignored secondary and long term effects of policies. While there is valid criticism of how the IMF got involved in Europe and how banks that made risky loans were rewarded for helping create the recession, he draws wrong conclusion (that stimulus and increased public spending is always the answer). Countries have collapsed into hyperinflation by trying his response creating a far worse crisis through printing money to support these programs and economic stimulus. While parts seemed like drawing too large of a conclusion based on a small sample size, other parts seemed just plain dishonest. Just as trying to look at Wichita or Tulsa (both cities with a larger population than Iceland) to see how an economic strategy could work, that would not be enough to declare one system as the only valid option. Comparisons between Iceland and Greece are too small in nature, and their systems were too separate to try and make the comparison that he did. I have always preferred comparisons between East and West Germany, and North and South Korea, as those are homogeneous populations in similar circumstances that have taken two very different paths, and led to very different results. The economic destruction in Germany after WWII was far greater than Greece or Iceland in the mid 2000's. His discussion on how England has such a superior healthcare system made me think I was reading a satire. At the time he was praising the system there in the 50's-70's it was suffering a massive "brain drain" where many doctors were leaving the country to practice elsewhere. I was just waiting for the part where he would say how British dentistry was also a model to be emulated. His criticism of the response to the collapse of the USSR neglected that the key problem was that it was so heavily government run for 70 years it had created a time bomb. Surely the response could have been improved, but to skip over the primary cause for the problem just lacks too much. Russia around 1990 had an economy on par with the US in 1890. That was a major reason why transitioning had such a devastating impact. The valid criticisms he made were overshadowed by neglecting long term effects, as well as other flaws. Those who support Keynesian economics and big government will enjoy this book. Most other people will find it frustrating at best.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tristan von Zahn

    [In progress] The Body Economic examines the effects that economic policies in response to recessions have on public health. The question that drives this book is "why do health outcomes in some countries seem to improve during recessions while others worsen?" Previous orthodoxy on this question suggested that falling incomes encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices - eating less, walking more rather than driving, etc. Yet this seems patently rubbish. Stuckler and Baju instead delve i [In progress] The Body Economic examines the effects that economic policies in response to recessions have on public health. The question that drives this book is "why do health outcomes in some countries seem to improve during recessions while others worsen?" Previous orthodoxy on this question suggested that falling incomes encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices - eating less, walking more rather than driving, etc. Yet this seems patently rubbish. Stuckler and Baju instead delve into the data and argue persuasively that the key factor that distinguishes countries that experience improvements in health from those that do not is whether or not they respond to recession with stimulus or austerity. In case after case, they find support for the fact that not only does stimulus appear to result in faster and more sustained recovery, but it also improves public health. Numerous cases that they consider bear this out: - Comparisons between states that were pro and anti the New Deal in the wake of the Great Depression. - Russia's experience transitioning to Capitalism and Poland's following the collapse of the Soviet Union. - The experience of Indonesia, Korea, and Thailand following the Asian Financial Crisis compared to Malaysia. - Iceland and Greece's differing experiences post the Great Recession. The book then transitions into considering specific public health issues, in particular: - The difference in outcomes between the NHS and the US healthcare systems – criticizing the latter as well as the Tory governments’ move towards a privatized system (particularly compelling is their argument surrounding why this reduces preventative early treatment and costs taxpayers more in the long run). - The link between suicide and unemployment is examined by contrasting Spain and Sweden's assistance to the unemployed and champions Sweden's Active Labor Market Programmes as ways to get people back to work and cure the cause of depression. Seemingly works as depression fell in 90s recession and Great Recession in Sweden but rose in Spain and other European countries. - Why reducing homelessness has major public health advantages (with the great example of why foreclosures in Bakersville California led to an outbreak of the mosquito borne West Nile outbreak despite a drought – because all those houses left swimming pools that stagnated and produced mosquito breading grounds). The three broad conclusions Stuckler and Baju reach are: i) Do no harm – all economic policies should be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny that medical practices are. This should be evidenced based as far as possible. ii) Invest in reducing poverty and unemployment – the evidence clearly shows that attempts to tackle poverty and unemployment have positive long run impacts on both GDP and health care. iii) Invest in public health – the average fiscal multiplier from public health interventions is 3 (meaning that every dollar invested creates 3 dollars of output).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Lochhead

    This book made me furious. Not because it’s bad: because it exposes the lack of interest in evidence-based policy displayed by many of our policymakers. The authors take the differing global responses to the 2008 financial crash as an opportunity to conduct a “natural experiment, evaluating the effects of particular economic policies on citizen’s health. In short, they find that austerity is both disastrous and ineffective. In every country which responded to the crash by cutting spending, partic This book made me furious. Not because it’s bad: because it exposes the lack of interest in evidence-based policy displayed by many of our policymakers. The authors take the differing global responses to the 2008 financial crash as an opportunity to conduct a “natural experiment, evaluating the effects of particular economic policies on citizen’s health. In short, they find that austerity is both disastrous and ineffective. In every country which responded to the crash by cutting spending, particularly on health programmes, people got iller, required more expensive care in the long term, and died earlier due to suicide, the effects of homelessness or stress-related disease. They tell the awful story of one US woman who, unable to afford health insurance, did not visit the doctor after getting a splinter in her foot. It went septic, led to multiple infections, and caused her to end up largely helpless in a care home. Had she been able to access free healthcare, she’d have been working and contributing to the economy instead of costing the state thousands of pounds every week. By contrast, countries such as Iceland and Finland, which responded to the crash by investing in social protection programmes, saw no increase in illness, death or disease, and indeed began experiencing economic recovery more quickly. If there was any sense in the world, the debate about austerity would be over, because the evidence is so clear that it doesn’t work. That’s what made me furious.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Masanobu

    After living through the Great Recession in one of the countries that was most affected by it, I have directly witnessed the consequences of austerity explained in the book. Yet this book still managed to surprise me because I had bought into the terrible discourse espoused by the people in charge and believed that some of the consequences, like mass unemployment, decrease in public health quality/access, or increase in depression and suicide rates, were due to the crisis and recession themselve After living through the Great Recession in one of the countries that was most affected by it, I have directly witnessed the consequences of austerity explained in the book. Yet this book still managed to surprise me because I had bought into the terrible discourse espoused by the people in charge and believed that some of the consequences, like mass unemployment, decrease in public health quality/access, or increase in depression and suicide rates, were due to the crisis and recession themselves, or maybe even to the corruption of the political class. Yet the evidence here proves that it is indeed all due to austerity policies, which not only don't help economic growth, but stop it. In Europe, they've even had the fun side effects of fueling far-right parties and encouraging Brexit. The authors present their peer-reviewed research in the socio-economic causes of epidemiology in an accessible way, so there is contrasted evidence of every kind you can imagine - financial crises across time and space, with the same patterns emerging again and again from policies based only on ideology and not usefulness. In The Body Economic, the authors have asked themselves whether our governments were ignorant or corrupt when they applied austerity policies, and they've graciously accepted the former explanation. After reading it, I'd go with the latter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    I had very different expectations of what this book would be about. The book is largely an exploration of austerity measures as a way to combat financial and economic crisis’s and why they shouldn’t be implemented (with plenty of criticism of the IMF in the process). As such the first few chapters didn’t sit well with me, but once I got what the book was actually doing I enjoyed it more. I think the Tagline is misleading and more emphasis should’ve been placed on the actual content of the book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adam Jones

    Probably the most important public health book since The Spirit Level, this excellent study of austerity and its impact on health provides an enlightening array of examples, case studies and potential remedies for our economic ills. The book is on the short side (144 pages of core content) but provides plenty of further reading and extensive notes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Niklas Laninge

    What did you think when Iceland voted against their creditors? What were your views on The crisis in Greece? Read this book to get a new perspective on austerity and privatization. A must read for any one slightly interested in healthcare and politics.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Chan

    In depth analyses and case studies on how austerity literally and figuratively can increase morbidity and mortality. I am curious how violence against women can be utilized similarly as a metric. Lots to think about.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chip Bowman-Zamora

    Fascinating take on austerity and the potential effects of government in healthcare and debt.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael Edwards

    Sobering tale of austerity and how it hurts society.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    I'm sure I can't do better than the book jacket itself in describing this book, so for convenience, I just copied that description at the bottom. If you look at the description, you probably won't be too surprised at the conclusion, i.e., during economic downturns, Countries turing to austerity and allowing public health programs to suffer will see an affect on the population. Alternately, Countries who continue to fund public health programs will maintain a healthier population. That may be an I'm sure I can't do better than the book jacket itself in describing this book, so for convenience, I just copied that description at the bottom. If you look at the description, you probably won't be too surprised at the conclusion, i.e., during economic downturns, Countries turing to austerity and allowing public health programs to suffer will see an affect on the population. Alternately, Countries who continue to fund public health programs will maintain a healthier population. That may be an oversimplification of the author's point, but it's pretty close. That's probably why the book's sub-title is "Austerity Kills". At any rate, the authors do bring in some studies supporting their views, and do provide an alternate economic argument into discussion. Book Jacket: Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impacts of the recent financial crisis, but many continue to ignore its disastrous effects on human health-and have even exacerbated them, by adopting harsh austerity measures and cutting key social programs at a time when constituents need them most. The result, as pioneering public health experts David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu reveal in this provocative audiobook, is that many countries have turned their recessions into veritable epidemics, ruining or extinguishing thousands of lives in a misguided attempt to balance budgets and shore up financial markets. Yet sound alternative policies could instead help improve economies and protect public health at the same time. In "The Body Economic", Stuckler and Basu mine data from around the globe and throughout history to show how government policy becomes a matter of life and death during financial crises. In a series of historical case studies stretching from 1930s America, to Russia and Indonesia in the 1990s, to present-day Greece, Britain, Spain, and the U.S., Stuckler and Basu reveal that governmental mismanagement of financial strife has resulted in a grim array of human tragedies, from suicides to HIV infections. Yet people can and do stay healthy, and even get healthier, during downturns. During the Great Depression, U.S. deaths actually plummeted, and today Iceland, Norway, and Japan are happier and healthier than ever, proof that public wellbeing need not be sacrificed for fiscal health.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ravi Menon

    I work in the NHS. Hence I'm probably not quite neutral. This is a powerful book setting the background and marked by very good quality research. Austerity kills as evidenced by multiple countries in which IMF/World Bank have tried their disastrous policies. This is book which makes me sad and angry at the countless number of people killed by wrong headed policies. UK is heading the same way with the current governments policies increasing death rates especially in the case of mental health. The N I work in the NHS. Hence I'm probably not quite neutral. This is a powerful book setting the background and marked by very good quality research. Austerity kills as evidenced by multiple countries in which IMF/World Bank have tried their disastrous policies. This is book which makes me sad and angry at the countless number of people killed by wrong headed policies. UK is heading the same way with the current governments policies increasing death rates especially in the case of mental health. The NHS budget has not risen much taking into account the rise in population as well as the aging. More over the disastrous Lansley health care act took about £3 billion to implement diverting attention and resources which could have been spent better. Even more insidious is the fragmentation of health service with every aspect of it being tendered out. The unprofitable acute care still being delivered by NHS trusts whilst the profitable areas (who defines the tariffs for each procedure anyway?) are tendered out to the 3rd sector and private sector. In the specialty I work in, there is one NHS trust and two private/social enterprises delivering care. This is in addition to the GP (primary care) and the CCG. The confusion is enormous given the multiplicity of organisations each with its own IT systems. Used to be just the NHS hospital Trust and the primary care GPs. Now we have two other private/social organisations which have won tenders in different areas of my specialty. Confusion reigns supreme and waste of resources is enormous. It would take us couple of years to sort out who does what and develop pathways. Wasted resources and once we sort it out, the tenders would have to be put out again as the term is for 5 years. This privatisation by stealth is leading to enormous wastage of man hours, duplication and triplication of IT and other resources. This book shows that proper investment in health and education by a government who which is committed to improve peoples health would make a huge difference. I seriously doubt the current UK government's motives in the NHS re-organisation. Powerful and painful reading.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Venky

    A lucid, methodical and meticulous riposte to the diabolical prophets of austerity. David Stikler and Sanjay Basu, in this essential read, bring out in stark detail the pre-conceived and jaundiced notions underlying the concept of austerity. The stimulus v austerity debate has raged on unhinged and unhindered for a long time. The proponents of each measure have been sharpening their swords and reloading their bullets ever since the Great Recession racked the word and ransacked lives. The austeri A lucid, methodical and meticulous riposte to the diabolical prophets of austerity. David Stikler and Sanjay Basu, in this essential read, bring out in stark detail the pre-conceived and jaundiced notions underlying the concept of austerity. The stimulus v austerity debate has raged on unhinged and unhindered for a long time. The proponents of each measure have been sharpening their swords and reloading their bullets ever since the Great Recession racked the word and ransacked lives. The austerity mavens have to an extent succeeded in arm twisting many economies (with the help of willing comrades such as the International Monetary Fund)in agreeing to an austerity 'package'. What has been the impact of the implementation of such a package? In "The Body Economic" two dedicated authors, one an epidemiologist and the other a Senior Research Leader combine to demonstrate the effects of eight beautifully constructed and observed 'experiments' in economic recovery. Their sample set is a varied basket of participants ranging from Iceland (which emphatically refused to toe the austerity line) to Greece (which was bullied, coerced and forced into embracing the austerity Mantra). In a remarkable demonstration of hard facts and unsurmountable data evidence, the authors conclusively prove the futulity of instituting an austerity measure. Not only does the austerity weapon fail miserably in its objectives, it also ends up weraking social and cultural havoc by uprooting livelihoods, communal cohesion and societal integration. As social security nets are cut, health budgets slashed,and home building upended, millions of people are left on the lurch without recourse to employment, shelter and medical care. The David Camerons and Jeffrey Sachs of the world need to lay their hands on this seminal book ASAP before their myopic and draconian thinking puts paid to many an aspiring hope and inspiring dream. "The Body Economic" - MUST READ FOR EVERY POLITICIAN, ECONOMIST AND HUMAN BEING!!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Renée Davis

    I really enjoyed this book. The authors have done a terrific job of linking key economic policies to their public health effects. At 145 pages (and with an accessible writing style), it's easy to devour over a weekend. The authors focus on several important case studies: the Great Depression, Post-communist transition in Russia after the collapse of the USSR, the East Asian crisis of the late 1990's, Iceland & Greece's economic collapse, and America's housing crisis of the present Great Recessio I really enjoyed this book. The authors have done a terrific job of linking key economic policies to their public health effects. At 145 pages (and with an accessible writing style), it's easy to devour over a weekend. The authors focus on several important case studies: the Great Depression, Post-communist transition in Russia after the collapse of the USSR, the East Asian crisis of the late 1990's, Iceland & Greece's economic collapse, and America's housing crisis of the present Great Recession. Throughout the book, the main theme surfaces: economic depressions & recessions aren't in and of themselves harmful to health. The policies that governments implement in response to them determine their effects on health. Their ultimate conclusion is this: governments that preserve social protection programs have healthier & more productive populations than those who adopt auesterity measures. And in our country, sick people bring a high cost to our society given our sickcare system. Ultimately, they argue that economic & human health go hand in hand, and the ultimate source of a country's wealth is its people. The also ask an important question: why should the public pay for the mistakes & actions of private firms? It's something to ponder. This book successfully forges more connections between economic policy & public health, and I hope to read more from them in the future.

  25. 5 out of 5

    rabble.ca

    http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2013/0... Review by Amy Mckinnon On March 28, 2012, Giuseppe Campaniello left for work earlier than usual. He would have kissed his wife goodbye, but she was sleeping so peacefully he decided to let her rest. Campaniello then set off for the Equitalia tax office in his hometown of Bologna, Italy. Once there, he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight. He died nine days later in hospital. Campaniello’s cause of death? Economics. Just days before, he’d received http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2013/0... Review by Amy Mckinnon On March 28, 2012, Giuseppe Campaniello left for work earlier than usual. He would have kissed his wife goodbye, but she was sleeping so peacefully he decided to let her rest. Campaniello then set off for the Equitalia tax office in his hometown of Bologna, Italy. Once there, he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight. He died nine days later in hospital. Campaniello’s cause of death? Economics. Just days before, he’d received a final notice from the tax office; doubling a fine he reportedly couldn’t pay, which proved to be the final straw. As tragic as Campaniello’s story is, unfortunately it is not unique. Italy’s detailed system for recording suicides has seen a large rise in the number of death certificates labelled, "due to economic reasons." In fact, since the global recession began in 2007, there have been some 10,000 suicides across Europe and North America. Whilst no country has been untouched by the crisis, and many have fallen into recession, the impact on populations’ physical and mental health has, curiously, been radically varied. Read more here: http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2013/0...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nicolás Aristizabal

    Amazing book, made in a way that allow almost every single reader to understand the bascis of the economics portrayed here, besides the maginificent historical insight it provides regardin neoliberalism (although it does not adress it directly). It is definetly a must read, it is not entirely objective, nor does it need to be, all is backed up with trust-worthy data and is a pretty good book to understand the policies our government makes. For those who want to know, it's mostly ceter around the Amazing book, made in a way that allow almost every single reader to understand the bascis of the economics portrayed here, besides the maginificent historical insight it provides regardin neoliberalism (although it does not adress it directly). It is definetly a must read, it is not entirely objective, nor does it need to be, all is backed up with trust-worthy data and is a pretty good book to understand the policies our government makes. For those who want to know, it's mostly ceter around the crisis of '08 and some other big recessions.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nadjma

    I consider myself quite left-inclined politically. For me, this book was a reaffirmation of all my core beliefs - except it proved it with facts. Health is a human right and should be treated as such. In tackling such an issue, they have talked about the downside of austerity. Whilst I generally agree that austerity isn't the way to go - I did feel that sometimes other factors weren't taken in consideration. It does look at austerity and stimulus as a rather black and white concept which I am qu I consider myself quite left-inclined politically. For me, this book was a reaffirmation of all my core beliefs - except it proved it with facts. Health is a human right and should be treated as such. In tackling such an issue, they have talked about the downside of austerity. Whilst I generally agree that austerity isn't the way to go - I did feel that sometimes other factors weren't taken in consideration. It does look at austerity and stimulus as a rather black and white concept which I am quite disappointed about. Being socialist inclined, myself, I wish this book also explained why governments and the IMF adviced austerity when it did for the 2008 depression. Why had Kennedy during the Great Depression chosen not to? Would I recommend this book to everyone I know? Of course. Do I finish this book feeling satisfied? Not as much. But then again, the book does do what it says it will do. It explains why austerity kills and that it does absolutely well.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Antoine Dumas

    "Had the austerity experiments been governed by the same rigorous standards as medical trials, they would have been discontinued long ago by a board of medical ethics. The side effects of the austerity treatment have been severe and often deadly. The benefits of the treatment have failed to materialize. Instead of austerity, we should enact evidence-based policies to protect health during hard times. Social protection saves lives. If administered correctly, these programs don't bust the budget, "Had the austerity experiments been governed by the same rigorous standards as medical trials, they would have been discontinued long ago by a board of medical ethics. The side effects of the austerity treatment have been severe and often deadly. The benefits of the treatment have failed to materialize. Instead of austerity, we should enact evidence-based policies to protect health during hard times. Social protection saves lives. If administered correctly, these programs don't bust the budget, but--as we have shown throughout this book--they boost economic growth and improve public health. (p. 140)" "Health, education, and social protection programs have among the highest fiscal multipliers. In the case of the health sector, public investment boosts the economy by more than three dollars for every dollar spent. Meanwhile, the fiscal multiplier for bank bailouts and defense spending is often negative. (p. 144)"

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ravi

    Very interesting and important book. The two epidemiologists provide a lot of data that shows that economic downturns and recessions on their own do not increase deaths. However the policies put in place to deal with the recessions have a high correlation with increased deaths. Those countries that continued to invest in public health, education and getting people back to work (via spending) either at similar or greater levels than before a recession not only prevented increased deaths but also Very interesting and important book. The two epidemiologists provide a lot of data that shows that economic downturns and recessions on their own do not increase deaths. However the policies put in place to deal with the recessions have a high correlation with increased deaths. Those countries that continued to invest in public health, education and getting people back to work (via spending) either at similar or greater levels than before a recession not only prevented increased deaths but also achieved higher economic growth sooner. The countries that reduced spending in these vital areas either own their own or through IMF conditioned programs (austerity) experienced growth in premature deaths, suicides, drug/alcohol related illness and in general unhappiness than the counterparts that invested in the most vulnerable.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diane Henry

    A sobering look at the damage austerity plans impose on the public. The idea that severe budget cuts improve a struggling country's economy is belied by the increase in infectious diseases, suicides, and emergency room visits. Paradoxically, efforts to cut public health spending inevitably end up increasing public health spending, as prevention costs so much less than trying to fix problems later. This books feels a little repetitive, with a sometimes mind-numbing bandying of numbers, but the mes A sobering look at the damage austerity plans impose on the public. The idea that severe budget cuts improve a struggling country's economy is belied by the increase in infectious diseases, suicides, and emergency room visits. Paradoxically, efforts to cut public health spending inevitably end up increasing public health spending, as prevention costs so much less than trying to fix problems later. This books feels a little repetitive, with a sometimes mind-numbing bandying of numbers, but the message is clear (of course, I already believed this anyway, so confirmation bias is probably at work as well!). Nonetheless, a worthwhile read, if only to give specific examples to the ways that austerity hurts people, physically and mentally.

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