Ebola and Inequality: Disease, Health and Neoliberalism

February 9th, 2015 by Andy in Taxes, The Commons & The Social Contract

Yet more reason why inequality is bad, and can even be considered a human rights issue in its sweepingly negative effects on the well-being and dignity of people. This from Inequality.org

How do inequality and health relate? Increasing evidence from scientists the world over indicates that many health outcomes — everything from life expectancy to infant mortality and obesity — can be linked to the level of economic inequality within a given population. Greater economic inequality appears to lead to worse health outcomes.

By greater inequality, epidemiologists — the scientists who study the health of populations — don’t just mean poverty. Poor health and poverty do go hand-in-hand. But high levels of inequality, the epidemiological research shows, negatively affect the health of even the affluent, mainly because, researchers contend, inequality reduces social cohesion, which leads to more stress, fear, and insecurity for everyone.

Hey, no worries. The “market” will solve this.

Yet more of the incessant litany of evidence as to why the libertarian wet dream of market purity is insane.

Read more on these studies Here

Speaking of inequality and health, this from Yves Smith points out the very dramatic consequences to all when collective problems are addressed through “individual incentives” and traditional capital “market forces.” I’m leaping to a specific point here, when this raises a whole hose of issues, questions, etc… which if I have time I will try to dig into with much more detail.

But this aspect of the issue is definitely brought to the fore here, in the sense that we *all* pay when this kind of inequality becomes systemic in the very processes that our society functions upon, and most importantly, responds to problems to. It also brings to mind the important point that one of America’s greatest challenges, World War II, was met and won *not* by letting the “market” solve it - but the complete opposite. The nation has never been under a more command and controlled economic structure than during that period. It took that to win that war. I’m not arguing that we should operate a society like that, but to dismiss standard libertarian and capitalist pablum about the transcendent “efficiencies” of the “market,” and that relying on those processes will achieve optimum results for society.

Read her piece Ebola Is an Economic Black Swan on her excellent blog Naked Capitalism

Karl Polyani’s 1944 book The Great Transformation had this whole neoliberal delusion pegged generations ago.

As for Ebola itself, the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet recently reported how U.S. government funding for the National Health Institute, which is leading the nation’s effort in attempting to stop this deadly virus, has been reduced by the GOP-controlled Congress to its lowest levels in years. This, immediately after a harrowing surge of the disease’s spread throughout western Africa, with cases beginning to show up in North America, in which members of that same Congress were accusing the Obama administration for not devoting enough attention towards stopping.

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