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on 4 April 2014
‘The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills’ is a powerful and persuasive critique of governmental attempts to curb fiscal expenditure in an attempt to enhance economic growth and reduce public debt. The book’s central aim is to shed greater light on the human and health costs of austerity politics and economics. The authors argue that healthcare spending, when carried out productively and wisely, can strengthen national economies and heighten national well-being. Countenancing their arguments and undergirding their thesis is an impressive and meticulous body of research which establishes, quite conclusively, that the higher the dose in which austerity was administered in a country, the more people died or deteriorated health-wise. Relying on their findings, Stuckler and Basu point out that countries, which have suffered recessions but yet have continued to maintain governmental spending on health care have managed to avoid deterioration in their citizens’ well-being. Notwithstanding the frequent recourse to statistics in the book, the authors have managed to produce, to their credit, an eminently readable book that is rich in analysis and insight but thankfully un-polemical in its tenor.
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on 20 August 2013
The Body Economic Why Austerity Kills should be required reading for everyone particularly our politicians. Both the writers are serious academics who have succeeded in getting across their message that austerity economics equate to a disaster for health care through out the world and kills people. This is why everyone should oppose austerity as it does kill people.Stuckler and Basu prove this from their analysis of countries internationally that wherever privatisation of healthcare and austerity economics are invoked this always results in disaster for everyone unless they are the rich and powerful.

The authors warn of the continued disaster posed by the UK Tory/Lib Dem coalition government and how their privatisation of the NHS will result in an American system of Health care where gross profits of insurance companies, dug companies and privatised medical care are the driving force and not the right of everyone to excellent healthcare which is free to all citizen's at the point of delivery. This book is an outstanding contribution to this ongoing debate which is based on facts and not the Tories false and untruthful assertions about our NHS.
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on 7 August 2017
Fantastic book, a must read for anyone with an interest in decency.
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on 29 May 2017
Superb book. Should be read by all potential UK voters!
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on 15 July 2013
This book contains very interesting and meaningful statistics and the authors have certainly it a lot of time and energy into the various research studies. For me, the book had a few too many statistics and studies stuffed in there which made for difficult reading but the points raised are real eye openers which policy makers could stand to learn from.
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on 28 May 2013
Stuckler and Basu are preeminent epidemiologists who have conducted some of the most important analyses of the affects of recession-era economic policies on health outcomes, with papers regularly appearing in prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals such as The Lancet, PLoS Medicine, and British Medical Journal. I have glanced through many of their papers, and decided to read this book to get a better sense of the broader historical and political context of these studies. Nevertheless, I went into the book still somewhat expecting them to build chapters around their major papers (as many books do) which often leads to a contrived or disruptive narrative, as the authors try to force a thread through disparate works. This was fortunately not the case here. Instead, the book is divided into three sections, the first of which looks at historical economic events (The Great Depression, the transition of former Soviet states, the East Asian economic crisis), the second examining the recent great recession (focusing on contrasting experiences of Iceland and Greece), and the third looking at the contemporary austerity debates and experiences (with focus largely on the US and UK, though bringing in evidence from Sweden, Spain, Italy, etc.)

The writing is clear and engaging. The authors provide a concise, yet informative review of the economic debates that surrounded the response to the Great Depression, "Shock Therapy" for the Former Soviet States, Iceland's economic collapse, Malaysia's defiance of the IMF and therefore of the health consequences of the East Asian economic crisis, the political events and health effects surrounding Greece's recent bailout and austerity push, etc. They've done a great job of balancing historical/political contextual information with explaining what they found in the data and building an argument for how this should inform future policies. What's left out to keep the text tight and readable is well referenced in endnotes.

One of the most compelling points in the book surrounds the discussion of the "fiscal multiplier", which as the authors define is "an estimate of how many dollars of future economic growth are created for each dollar of government spending". Austerity is based on the principle that this number is less than 1, such that government spending is hurting economic growth potential (and by extension, cutting spending would allow diversion of this funding towards activities that create more growth). Stuckler and Basu note that the IMF assumed in many cases that this number was 0.5, such that austerity makes economic sense, whereas data later suggested that it was well over 1 in many scenarios, particularly for health spending where it was as high as 3.0. In other words, cutting spending on healthcare wasn't just bad for health, it hurt GDP growth potential. This is a critical concept, and my one criticism of the book is that there wasn't more discussion of where the IMF drew this number from and why they continued to use this value after it has been refuted in multiple examples (as the authors illustrate).

That said, the fiscal multiplier is really about the anticipated economic consequences of austerity, whereas Stuckler and Basu's main thesis is that these debates about austerity have universally failed to keep public health concerns at the forefront, and those health consequences are considerable. The key myth that is likely keeping public health concerns sidelined in the discourse about austerity is that health outcomes always decline in a recession, so the focus of fiscal policies needs to be solely on economic growth to address that. The authors demonstrate with great clarity that health outcomes in many cases improve during recessions or depressions (mortality fell during the Great Depression and rose during recovery!); the important variable is how governments manage their health and social safety nets during periods of recession and unemployment. Austerity hasn't been shown to make good long-term economic sense (with a trend towards harm), whereas it invariably has short term public health harms.

Their fundamental argument then is a simple but urgent one for countries facing difficult fiscal decisions in the face of recession: that the predictable health consequences of spending cuts be weighed in the calculus of austerity, because the lives lost during recession won't return with the GDP.
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on 4 September 2014
The Body Economic by medical researchers David Stuckler & Sanjay Basu is a succinct, occasionally dry (at least to a layman like myself) yet ultimately enlightening polemic that attempts to prove that austerity in the face of economic depression is a counter-productive measure, that has serious implications to the health of the individuals affected by its implementation. The authors show, using rigorous analysis of the data of past economic crises, that looking after the health and needs of the body economic (a term coined by the authors in response to the “body politic”), rather than slashing health budgets and social safety nets, contributes to quicker and greater economic growth. This is an important and timely book that proves that our government's economic policy (which is based on ideology rather than evidence) is in need of radical rethink. A must read for anyone interested the true cost of austerity.
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on 26 April 2014
You know how some books take one trite idea and then drag it out into a whole book? Well this book contains a decade worth of astonishing, detailed research in a couple of hundred pages, including full references.

I am halfway through and I'm finding it a troubling, but very worthwhile read. It exposes the awful reality of people who are hit hard by austerity measures and the lie that somehow cuts lead to economic growth. The explanations of economic crises are some of the clearest I've read as a non-economist.

I'm going to send a copy to my (Labour) MP.
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on 6 June 2013
This book is essential reading for everyone who believes that the only way to approach the current recession is with austerity measures. The book shows how time and again every country who refused to introduce austerity measures and instead invested in social protection programmes are moving out of recession quicker, than those who did, while maintaining the health, education and every other social protection measure possible. This book should provide the blueprint / manifesto for all political parties that consider themselves Socialists and ably demonstrates why the IMF and its supporters have simply made the wrong decisions and are responsible for doing so much damage to the countries that have implemented their policies and are responsible for the deaths of so many people around the globe. I cannot stress that last point enough in my opinion the IMF is demonstrably responsible for the rising suicide rate in countries which have introduced austerity measures and should be held accountable for their actions.
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on 5 September 2013
This book discusses the real cost of cuts; people getting stressed, ill , suicidal. It explains in an easily readable style why number crunchers and politicians should not be in charge of us. It also highlights some of the more shocking facts like paying a foreign company £400 million to save about £10 million.
It is a good book for anyone who only reads media headlines and thinks it is OK for politicians to make decisions based on what looks good rather than what is good for society.
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