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The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  391 ratings  ·  56 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 21st 2013 by Basic Books (first published May 6th 2013)
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Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
A clear indictment of conservative economic theology that has deadly consequences for the most vulnerable in society.
Jen Mcgovern
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: econ-health
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
Robert Davidson
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political, economics
It should be fairly unsurprising that if you fail to provide the most basic needs to people, that it will affect their health in the most negative ways. This book is well-researched rebuttle to any neoliberal government or institution that claims that economic recovery comes through slashing social programs (yet often increasing the militarised police to quell subsequent dissent). Austerity has never worked for its stated goals, and this book provides plenty of evidence for that by framing it pu ...more
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little thin at times, The Body Economic highlights the faults with austerity and breaks neoliberal arguments with ease.
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Tara Brabazon
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Adam Azraei
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Grant Brookes
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
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
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
Carolyn Lochhead
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
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.
Adam Jones
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it
data driven interdisciplinary approach to the intersection of public health and economic policy ... with the conclusion that austerity in times of recession/depression is counter-productive, leading to death and failing to stimulate the economy ... many examples of how government spending in moments of recession turn the economy around while preventing death
Ruba Halabi
An absolute must read. A detailed and fully referenced review of natural history experiments outlining the impact of economic policies on health. Got 5 stars because it's scientific peer reviewed evidence- the authors published most of their data and findings in high tier international journals like the Lancet. It's not so much bias as acknowledging the evidence. ...more
Niklas Laninge
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
Michelle Chan
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Chip Bowman-Zamora
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
Fascinating take on austerity and the potential effects of government in healthcare and debt.
Michael Edwards
May 15, 2020 is currently reading it
Sobering tale of austerity and how it hurts society.
Oct 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Ravi Menon
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
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
Renée Davis
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, medicine
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

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
Nicolás Aristizabal
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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David Stuckler, PhD, MPH, HonMFPH, FRSA is a Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at University of Oxford and research fellow of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He has written over 170 peer-reviewed scientific articles on global health in The Lancet, British Medical Journal and Nature in addition to other major journals. His book about the global chronic-disease epidemi ...more

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20 likes · 3 comments
“What are the health effects of the choice between austerity and stimulus? Today there is a vast natural experiment being conducted on the body economic. It is similar to the policy experiments that occurred in the Great Depression, the post-communist crisis in eastern Europe, and the East Asian Financial Crisis. As in those prior trials, health statistics from the Great Recession reveal the deadly price of austerity—a price that can be calculated not just in the ticks to economic growth rates, but in the number of years of life lost and avoidable deaths.

Had the austerity experiments been governed by the same rigorous standards as clinical 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.

Austerity’s advocates have ignored evidence of the health and economic consequences of their recommendations. They ignore it even though—as with the International Monetary Fund—the evidence often comes from their own data. Austerity’s proponents, such as British Prime Minister David Cameron, continue to write prescriptions of austerity for the body economic, in spite of evidence that it has failed.

Ultimately austerity has failed because it is unsupported by sound logic or data. It is an economic ideology. It stems from the belief that small government and free markets are always better than state intervention. It is a socially constructed myth—a convenient belief among politicians taken advantage of by those who have a vested interest in shrinking the role of the state, in privatizing social welfare systems for personal gain. It does great harm—punishing the most vulnerable, rather than those who caused this recession.”
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