The book: RIchard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, 2010. The Spirit Level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger. Bloomsbury Press. Foreword by Robert B. Reich.
I knew already that absolute poverty leads to higher health care and policing/justice system costs. What I didn’t know is that relative poverty also does this. This book sets out a strong case for income inequality being bad for society and for everyone in it, not just the poorer members. Continue reading →
This talk by David Stuckler goes over some of the same information in the book I reviewed yesterday here, with some of the same figures. There is an additional figure in the talk (at the 20 minute mark) that is taken from a paper* they published the same year. It looks at the return on investment of various types of government spending. Government spending in general tends to lead to economic growth, but it depends on what it is spent on, with defense spending actually shrinking the economy but spending on health, social protection, and education leading to significant economic growth. (“Community” means things like housing, water, street lights. These numbers are averages for 25 countries.)
The sound in the video isn’t the greatest, but it’s relatively short (24 minutes) and covers the same territory as the book. There are other videos as well if you want more details and don’t want to read.
*Does investment in the health sector promote or inhibit economic growth? Aaron Reeves, Sanjay Basu, Martin McKee, Christopher Meissner and David Stuckler. Globalization and Health 2013(9):43. You can find it online fairly easily if you want the details of how they came up with the numbers.
The body economic: Why austerity kills. Recessions, budget battles, and the politics of life and death. David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, 2013. Basic Books.
The authors are public health experts who study how social and economic policies affect our health. I first read this book in 2013 when it came out, and was blown away, mostly because I was not aware of the effects of austerity vs government spending.
It’s unethical for researchers to conduct austerity experiments on populations to see what happens, but there are plenty of austerity experiments out there already, enacted by governments, that researchers can study to see what the effects are. This book is a plain language translation of their scientific research.
According to the authors, economic policy affects who lives and dies more than medical care does; in the US, zip code is a top predictor of life expectancy. Continue reading →