The Great Recession of 2007 rekindled the argument about how best to respond to economic contraction in the presence of significant deficits. It pitted those in favor of stimulus spending against those advocating deep cuts to government spending and programs. Although the latter group have suffered a setback in recent weeks after the findings of an influential economic paper were revealed to be based upon incorrect calculations, the debate rages on, mostly broken down along ideological and political lines.
In “The Body Economic,” David Stuckler and Dr. Sanjay Basu approach this question from an entirely new angle. It is not pure economics that interests them, and indeed, the question of which of the two paths is more likely to bring about a speedier and longer-lasting economic recovery is not one that comes up. Rather, they are concerned with the effects these policy decisions have on the health and well-being of the citizens of countries struggling with major economic crises. Stuckler and Basu are public health experts who have been studying this issue for years. Drawing upon their own scholarly work as well as that of others, they convincingly make the case that “recessions can hurt, but austerity kills.”