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Austerity is bad for your health

Every time a government makes an economic or political decision, it also answers key medical questions: Who will live, and who will get sick, and who will die?

This is not a new observation. Dr. Rudolf Virchow, a 19th-century German politician and physician, famously observed in 1848 that "Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a grand scale." We can't even say we've forgotten his insight; today's politicians know very well that some of their policies kill people. But they go ahead and carry out those policies anyway.

How they have done it recently is brilliantly documented in this book, which uses Virchow's comment as its epigraph. David Stuckler, a public-health researcher at Oxford, and Sanjay Basu, a California physician and epidemiologist, have examined the public-health consequences of the Great Recession that began with the end of the US housing bubble in 2007-08. They and their colleagues have published their findings extensively in peer-reviewed medical journals, whose readers weren't really surprised.

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