Privatisation and death rates

Here’s an interesting piece from The Times that reports on some fascinating research about the impact of mass privatisation in Russia following the collapse of Communism.

A recent piece in the Lancet by David Stuckler, Lawrence King and Martin McKee suggests that the rapid privatisation in a number of former Soviet and Eastern European states coincides with a spike in the death-rate of 18%. They suggest that the link between the two is unemployment, whose link to both stress and ill-health in a general sense and self-destructive behaviours like binge drinking is well-chronicled.

The report has caused a real storm, it appears.  In particular, it has brought forth a robust response from Jeffrey Sachs, the principal proponent of “shock therapy” to bring about irreversible capitalism in countries moving away from command economies.  But as the Times article says, the science looks pretty sound and the conclusion that key support networks risk being swept away in the name of economics is logical.

But most chilling is the fact that privatisation is only one type of economic shock. The toll of the extreme failure of market economics we are facing now could, on that basis, be a lot more than financial.

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