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The Body Economic

Why Austerity Kills - Recessions, Budget Battles, and The Politics of Life and Death

The Body Economic
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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.

HarperCollins Canada; May 2013
256 pages; ISBN 9781443420464
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