Ontario is presently entering year two of its austerity program, convinced that it is the only way out of an economic problem that wasn’t even created here.
We have previously highlighted economic arguments that suggest austerity creates a self-defeating “fiscal drag” that compounds debt and deficit problems. Now a new book by a pair of academics on either side of the Atlantic argues that not only is austerity self-defeating, but it is also bad for your health.
In The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu present a convincing analysis that austerity policies have made citizens involuntary subjects of a grand experiment in public health. If you recently lived in the UK, Greece, Spain or Italy, you’ve likely recently witnessed very different population health outcomes than if you lived in Sweden, Iceland or Denmark.
The authors argue that this is not the first time this austerity versus stimulus experiment has taken place. In the U.S. States that adopted the depression-era “New Deal” stimulus programs had much better health outcomes than those that refused to do so.
“Economic choices are not only matters of growth rates and deficits, but matters of life and death,” the authors write.
In their peer-reviewed study, the pair of PhDs state that investment in the right programs can not only alleviate human suffering, but can itself spur economic growth. For every $1 invested in public health programs, the net benefit to the economy is $3. By anyone’s standards, that’s a sweetheart deal. Yet ideology prevents us from seeing the evidence before us.