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The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills - Recessions, Budget Battles, and The Politics of Life and Death [Kindle Edition]

David Stuckler , Sanjay Basu
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

An agenda-shaping look at the human costs of financial crisis—the culmination of ten years’ work by two pioneering researchers

Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impact of the Great Recession, 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 citizens 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 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 across history to show how government policy becomes a matter of life and death during financial crises. Through a series of case studies stretching from the United States in the 1930s to Russia and Indonesia in the 1990s and present-day Greece, Britain, Spain, Canada and America, Stuckler and Basu reveal that political mismanagement of financial crises has resulted in a grim array of human tragedies, including suicides, HIV infections, West Nile Virus and tuberculosis epidemics. Yet people can and do stay healthy, and even get healthier, during downturns. During the Great Depression, U.S. death rates actually plummeted, and today, people in Iceland, Norway and Japan are happier and healthier than ever.

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Can the economic crisis have an effect on our health? Oxford Senior Research leader Stuckler and Stanford epidemiologist Basu offer insight into the economic crisis—including the Great Recession—and its effect on public health, arguing that countries attempt to fix recessions by balancing budgets, but have failed to protect public well-being. They demonstrate how maintaining a healthy populace is intimately entwined with the health of the social environment. Filled with graphs and charts, the book shows how government's investment in social welfare improves the public's health, due to the creation of unemployment programs, pensions, and housing support. Each chapter offers historical facts from the 1930s in United States, to Russia and Indonesia in the 1990s, to present-day Greece, Britain, Spain, and the U.S., revealing how the government's mismanagement of the economic crisis has resulted in the public's poor health and an epidemic of diseases. The authors argue that it is the politicians' job to ensure that people's health needs are met, rather than their ability to pay. Societies will prosper when they invest in people's health both in good times and in bad. The question remains: what steps need to be taken to prevent widespread suffering both now and in the future? (June)

From Booklist

Stuckler and Basu, academics and public-health experts, examine how governmental budgets and economic choices affect life and death, as well as resilience and risk, for entire populations. With extensive study on the health effects of global economic policies during the December 2007 recession, they conclude that economies paid a deadly price for austerity in terms of ticks to growth rates, life lost, and avoidable deaths. Instead of austerity, the authors recommend evidence-based policies (stimulus) to protect health during hard times: If administered correctly, these programs don’t bust the budget, but . . . boost economic growth and improve public health. Stuckler and Basu ultimately blame the failure of austerity on the economic ideology of those who support small government and free markets over state intervention; they contend that governments that have increased public-sector spending have seen faster economic recoveries, which in turn helps them to grow out of debt. This informative book will add important perspective to the ongoing debate on the consequences of economic policies. --Mary Whaley

Product Details

  • File Size: 802 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (May 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BATUF64
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,177,827 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
By Viz
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Body Economic is a refreshing change in the monotonous age of blogs that have no accountability,articles that haven't been reviewed by critical peers, and books that are backed up with nothing but ideology (and a willing publisher).

The book starts by saying that we are all part of a clinical trial. This sounds cute at first but becomes more chilling as you read along. The book looks at populations around the world (Iceland, Greece, historical and contemporary United States, the UK, Sweden, Thailand, post-Soviet Nations etc) and how they fared based on which decisions their governments made (cut spending or maintain social programs). The results are unequivocal and will threaten the ideologues on the right but can actually change their minds, if they give data a chance.

This book has the passion of "Pathologies of Power", but takes a more direct look at the economic determinants of health. It has the empathy and global reach of "Development as Freedom" but has a remarkably accessible language, especially given that the authors are academicians (sorry Amartya Sen, you are a brilliant economist but you work faster than Ambien for the average Jane). It has the data-driven approach of "Poor Economics" but it is unapologetic in its conclusion that austerity kills.

The last point is sure to ruffle some feathers. Academics who make conclusions that are backed by politically-neutral data often take a cautious approach in their language, perhaps in an attempt to engage those who might be turned off by a subtitle as seemingly polarizing as "Why Austerity Kills". However, The Body Economic is unapologetic and strongly backed by solid data.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Saving money in times of scarcity is a theme passed along to most of us from our parents and grandparents. Many of us deeply value and respect individual frugality, even if it is not easily or effectively put into practice. Indeed, spending and saving wisely is a key foundation for individual and community prosperity. Somewhere along the way, however, large number of influential economists and politicians intuitively and understandably tried to apply this logic to governments at times of financial crisis. Thus was born the idea of "austerity", a fiscal principal of cutting back spending in order to avoid debt and deficits. The results over the last quarter century of global austerity policies were devastating on both economic growth and population health. The austerity policy "experiment", as epidemiologists David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu describe in their new book, The Body Economic, has led to large losses to both the economy and to population health.

As an epidemiologist and a physician myself, I see on a daily basis the real and deep morality to statistics and their accurate collection, interpretation, and discussion. Real people live and die on the basis of how we as citizens, policy makers, and clinical providers process data. Indeed, all of us, regardless of our professions, are confronted with statistics about life and death on a daily basis. What we or our policy makers rarely do, however, is analyze deeply these statistics and how they actually impact our lives. This is the heart of the approach that Drs. Stuckler and Basu take to analyzing economic policies at times of recessions: what do data tell us, beyond rhetoric and intuition and biases, about how governments should respond?
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Book in Public Health Economics May 21, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is a very powerful condemnation of austerity measures in economic policy. The book is based on more than a decade worth of peer-reviewed academic work concerning economic policy and its effect on public health outcomes. The authors have given special care to write an accessible book aimed at a non-specialist audience. They have succeeded brilliantly.

Austerity is simply the idea of cutting budgets to payoff national debt. Mark Blyth has recently published a book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea that demonstrates that the economic policy of austerity is a failure. Stuckler and Basu demonstrate that such measures have very negative effects on public health and quite literally kill.

The Body Economic signifies the economic and financial systems of which we are all a part, the economic policies that constitute these systems, and most important to the argument of the book, the health effects of these systems and policies.

Stuckler and Basu argue that economic forces have a direct influence on who is more likely to spiral into depression, be infected by disease, catch tuberculosis in a homeless shelter, binge on alcohol, turn to illicit drug use, etc..

Most surprisingly Suckler and Basu find that it is not economic downturns that increase ill-health, rather it is the policy that is either enacted or not enacted that determines the health outcomes of an economic downturn.

In concrete with Mark Blyth's book, Stuckler and Basu conclude that austerity does not decrease deficits, but in fact increases deficits. Instead they maintain that stimulus spending on public health, job market programs, and housing actually helps reduce the deficits.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A critical work for destroying the false god of neoliberal globalism!
This is a really striking book. The meme "neoliberalism kill" is beginning to spread, and this book puts flesh on the bones of that meme. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Joseph M. Firestone
3.0 out of 5 stars Nebulous linkage of world health and death rates to austerity
The book claims that cuts in social spending caused increased death rates around the world. It perpetuates the fallacy of presenting currently popular mindless altruism as an... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gderf
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read – Be Prepared to Understand the Truth
Initially, I learned about this book when the authors were speaking on NPR and I decided to read the book, and so glad that I did, because it explained so much in very simple... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Love Goddess
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Supporting Those in Need Helps Everybody
This research based report analyzes economic strategies of austerity versus putting a umbrella over those who may be adversely affected by economic trying times. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Blue Wave
5.0 out of 5 stars Keynes vs Hayek Revisited
This book is an excellent review of what happens when governments attempt to become austere and cut healthcare and other types of entitlements. Read more
Published 8 months ago by scientist99
5.0 out of 5 stars very informative and updated.
every doctor should read it! it's urgent to understand why austerity is killing people and why some governments choose to harm public health.
Published 8 months ago by maria jose campos
5.0 out of 5 stars A very informative read
The Body Economic is a well written and well researched piece discussing the age old problem of disease causation. Read more
Published 9 months ago by John A. Leraas
5.0 out of 5 stars Public health
I heard an interview on NPR this morning with Dr. Basu. I was intrigued by the comparisons between Greece and Iceland -- the details are quite compelling. Read more
Published 10 months ago by jr33
5.0 out of 5 stars well funded analysis
I've read it practically in one session. Great combination of story, statistical and cause analysis and synthesis - but still leaving open for further discussion. Read more
Published 10 months ago by slovon
5.0 out of 5 stars Austerity Kills (maybe even some members of the 1%)
Conservatives believe that in the time of a recession, the government needs to reduce its spending to avoid increasing the national debt, and the liberals believe that the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Joe V.
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