• Civilization 7 has been announced. For more info please check the forum here .

The Lancet publishes another paper on a scandalous death toll

innonimatu

the resident Cassandra
Joined
Dec 4, 2006
Messages
15,128
This time it's not about Iraq, and will probably be hardly noticed:
Soviet sell-offs led to deaths, says study (original paper, subscription required)

”Shock therapy”, or rapid mass privatisation, in the former Soviet bloc in the first half of the 1990s was responsible for the early deaths of 1m people that could have been prevented, according to a paper to be published in The Lancet, the medical journal, on Thursday.

An analysis of the 3m working age men who died across the former communist countries of eastern Europe suggests at least a third were victims of mass privatisation, which led to widespread unemployment and social disruption.

The study adds to growing research in recent years demonstrating how far the economic transition led to widespread suffering through death and physical and mental illness.

The research, conducted by David Stuckler and Lawrence King from Cambridge University and Martin McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, takes a specific swipe at the legacy of Jeffrey Sachs, the US economist, who advocated shock therapy at the time.
[...]

This has some historical interest, of course, but the relevant part for our days is the main point: unemployment, poverty and social upheaval can cause death tolls of "genocidal" proportions, upon previously "healthy" societies which never expected such problems. I know that opinions are still divided about how serious the present economic crisis is, and on whether it may, or not, cause big social changes also. But one of the main culprits of that demographic catastrophe of the 1990s, Jeffrey Sachs, is now calling for... a bigger government role in his own country, and on health in particular.

Sometimes there are evils that bring about some good. After years of debate about the health system in that center of the "free-market" approach to everything, the US, and even a scary slide in Europe from public and universal health systems towards private health insurance, promoted by banks and insurance companies (those now existing only on government money), will the citizens of Western Europe and North America manage to shed all the "free market" propaganda they've been fed for years and move to defend themselves from a similar catastrophe?


edit: and in this case, the problem is not even new. It just can get much worse.
 
These conditions would not have existed if communism had never taken root in Russia.
 
And communism would never have taken root in Russia if the tsars and aristorats hadn't been such scum :rolleyes:
 
So. Many. Variables.

I can't help but be suspicious that this report is but an exercise in speculative alternate history.
 
Not really. Communism was useless. But the end of communism simply turned people loose to fend for themselves in an economy that offered no opportunity to do so. And concentrated the power of the new system in the hands of people who had not even as much reason as the commies to take care of anyone else.
 
Not really. Communism was useless. But the end of communism simply turned people loose to fend for themselves in an economy that offered no opportunity to do so. And concentrated the power of the new system in the hands of people who had not even as much reason as the commies to take care of anyone else.

The problem is that for the terms used in this study to be valid the authors must have created an idealised post-soviet picture of the former Soviet Union, to compare with reality. Such a fiction sounds ridiculously hard to create accurately. Nothing approaches a point of comparison with the fall of the USSR and to assume a continuation of data trends from pre-91 would be foolishly naive, to say nothing of the dubious nature of Soviet data. Yet if one doesn't, there simply does not seem to be anything to work on. The brief is to model an entire economy of several hundred million people and try and tease out thousands of conflicting factors in order to assess that of rapid privatisation. I simply do not believe that that is within the capability of three medical professors.

By all means try and point out the failures of post soviet states. But to use this report as some sort of refutation free-market economics and try and compare 1990's Eastern Europe with 2009 Western world? That's just ridiculous.
 
Despite what innonimatu would like to claim, it really is not an indictment of "free markets", or "capitalism" or anything similar to that. What Russia went through was a near revolutionary chaotic period of transition from communism to corporatism. Free markets and capitalism were never tried.
 
This actually highlights what I think was the biggest problem with the Lancet survey in Iraq. "Excess deaths" is a tricky thing. Saying that X event killed Y number of people is different from saying it made people unhealthier and reduced life expectancy.

In the Iraq case I think the biggest contributor to increased mortality was violence, rather than reduced standards of healthcare and economic security, which reduced the issue in the case of Iraq. But even there, whilst you can blame increased crime rates and lawlessness owing to a collapse in security on an invasion and occupation, that's still slightly different from attributing all those deaths directly to the occupiers.

This also brings into question the Rwanda numbers... I assume the vast majority of the excess mortality measured there was people being killed violently, but surely there was also a collapse in conditions more generally since it was pretty much a war zone.

But still, the distinction between "killed" and "created conditions where the mortality rate rose" is difficult to make.
 
Top Bottom