Public Health

Capitalism's War Against Men

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A new University of Michigan study claims that while the Soviet Union routinely exiled undesirables in the Gulag, the country's lack of stressful economic competition produced a surfeit of healthy men. AFP reports:

Communism may be oppressive [It may be oppressive?], but it seems as though capitalism is bad for men's health, according to a recent study which found significant increases in mortality rates after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"The inequalities in status and resources that can come with capitalism does lead males to behave in ways that are detrimental to men's health," lead author Daniel Kruger said in a telephone interview.

Increased competition can create an environment that encourages risk-taking behaviour that results in fatal accidents, he said.

"It seems as though there is a physiological embodiment of stress from being in a competitive environment," Kruger told AFP.
Kruger compared the mortality rates of men and women in 14 post Soviet countries.

Male mortality from intentional causes—homicides and suicides—doubled in the region, although it varied significantly by country.

Poland, which had a relatively smooth transition, saw the rate increase just 15 percent while Estonia, which was much more unstable, saw violent deaths increase 238 percent.

reason's Jacob Sullum on the totalitarian implications of public health.

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  1. I’m sure they controlled for factors besides the overnight switch from Communist paradise to Capitalist jungle-rule.

  2. The last line gives it away: the increased mortality rate is due to unstable conditions introduced by the governmental transitions, not ‘capitalism.’

  3. what a sack of shit this study is

  4. No mention of death by gulag or starvation.

  5. Hey, when public health is at issue we can’t waste time with facts, controlling for other factors, or even looking at other factors.

    We have to do something.

    And clearly that something is to ban capitalism and competition. Nothing less would be acceptable in addressing this public health epidemic.

  6. s/capitalism/economic chaos caused by the collapse of an untenable governmental and economic policy/g

  7. Poland, which had a relatively smooth transition, saw the rate increase just 15 percent while Estonia, which was much more unstable, saw violent deaths increase 238 percent.

    I guess in this study death by State GULAG does not count as violent death.

  8. Indoor cats live longer than outdoor ones.

  9. in a totalitarian state, it’s entirely possible that someone could have “public health” as their cause of death.

  10. Hey, at least this is a unique take by socialists. Usually their whining about capitalism is confined to the dangers it poses to The Children(tm).

  11. lunchstealer,

    kill -9 1917

  12. All of these references to gulags would be really helpful, if Communism had collapsed in 1956.

    They weren’t exactly dotting the Russian countryside with mass graves in 1989.

  13. Things are never quite as black and white as our ideologies (and religions) make them out to be. The whole point of embracing an ideology (or religion)is to achieve a state of comfortable certainty free of troubling ambiguities. That’s why the idea that communism had any redeeming features is anathema here. Watching the outrage is mildly amusing, so carry on.

  14. Edward is right – remember how hostilely we Reasonista’s reacted when Grand Chalupa pointed out that many black people benefitted from slavery?

    Damn us for our ideological intolerance!

  15. I’m going to nominate “the gulag” to go along with “at gunpoint” as the Libertarian’s “for the children”.

  16. Tarran

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Stupidity is a very human failing.

  17. so the greater lesson is if you’re going to upend a country, do it slowly?

    (if only someone had tossed this bone to bush and company…)

  18. As I sit here in my office buzzing off ephedrine I booted, sweating my balls off trying to make budget for the beginning of the new quarter and looking forward to working till seven and a six bottle of wine dinner with brokers I can definitely tell you this capitalism thing is taking years off my life. I’m twenty-three–I have no idea how people last in this industry (commercial property insurance, for the record) for forty plus eyars, without becoming alcoholics/multiple divorcees/cardiac timebombs. Most don’t

    And I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world

  19. the Soviet Union … produced a surfeit of healthy men.

    Perhaps in the same way that machete-wielding gangs “produce” a surfeit of fast runners?

  20. Increased competition can create an environment that encourages risk-taking behaviour that results in fatal accidents

    So does heavy drinking, which has tripled in Russia over the same time period.

  21. Jennifer wins the thread!!!

  22. Is this any surprise? Risk aversion and mind-numbing predictability is the bedrock of communist thought.

  23. Risk aversion and mind-numbing predictability is the bedrock of communist thought.

    Well, once the bloody revolution is over….

  24. Yes, I too think Jennifer has provided the ultimate response. Even if we men do live longer under communism, is that the kind of live we’d want?

    Plus, as I think Milton Friedman pointed out (somewhere), people in a free-market society who want the communist “lifestyle” can create it for themselves, but people in a communist society who want a free-market “lifestyle” are SOL.

    Hey — that’s an idea — some enterprising soul should provide a “live like a Russian/Chinese/Cuban communist” kit for those who favor that option. E.g., here’s your toilet paper; it has to last x weeks. You’re allowed to eat only these items and only this much. You’re not allowed to say the following types of things. You need to limit your living space to x square feet. Etc.

  25. Hey — that’s an idea — some enterprising soul should provide a “live like a Russian/Chinese/Cuban communist” kit for those who favor that option. E.g., here’s your toilet paper; it has to last x weeks. You’re allowed to eat only these items and only this much. You’re not allowed to say the following types of things. You need to limit your living space to x square feet. Etc.

    And have babies, lots of babies!

  26. Well, once the bloody revolution is over….

    Ah yes, the “creative period”. Where the permutations of bourgeois suffering are diverse and full of innovation.

  27. Indoor cats live longer than outdoor ones.

    Cats are MUCH more vicious than anything capitalism has to offer. Mine stay indoors.

  28. That’s it. If it doesn’t result in blowing something up, flying cars, lasers, tangible health benefits (like four-hour erections), or TVs the size of a wall, it isn’t science. Just to show that I’m a kind man, I’ll exempt physics. Except for any untestable fads that it might go through, from time to time.

  29. Look, very few people were killed in gulags in the USSR or eastern Europe in the 1980’s, which is the pont of comparison. The system was repressive but by that point had not been mass-murderous for a long time. So stop that silly rhetorical point.

    That doesn’t mean I endorse the conclusions of the study. The higher death rate in the 1990’s probably is mainly the result of Russians and east Europeans drinking even more heavily than usual, due to the economic crisis which was caused not by “capitalism” as such but was part of the cost of a botched transition, which unfortunately largely amounted to pseudo-privatization for the benefit of the old nomenklatura. Any attempt to retain the old system would probably have led to an even more lasting economic crisis and (in the long run) more deaths.

  30. jp

    Actually, all you need to do is join a Hutteritte commune.

    The Hutterites are a fascinating group. Their pacifism has resulted in them being persecuted by pretty much every government they come in contact with, including having several members tortured or murdered by the U.S. government in World War I for refusing to serve in the Army.

    While most communal movements do no last a generation, they have been around for several hundred years. The nice thing is that they don’t force anybody to join their commune by violence; anyone can leave any time.

  31. It falls to me – to ME – to be the one to point out that the mafiocracy of the Yeltsin/Putin years isn’t free market capitalism?

    Man, it’s easy to get libertarians to the barricades!

  32. The Soviets weren’t above cooking the books from time to time, you know.

  33. joe,

    I think that was mentioned several times above. Are you filtering? I am. I filter everyone’s comments but mine. If any of my comments seem responsive, it’s just a coincidence.

  34. Pro Libertate is an arrant knave!

  35. For instance, if I were to say that Der Teufel ist ein jp, that would be mere synchronicity if someone named jp were to have commented. No way for me to know that!

  36. I think he can hear us. I can’t say for sure, but I think he flinched, just a little.

  37. Shouldn’t they have compared lives between the time of soviet communism to the same time period in the USA?

    Otherwise all they are doing is comparing the same population along a continuim. In that case why not start with life under the Czar’s Fuedalism to the first 10 years of the Lenin/Stalin era. That would be interesting considering the Bolsheviks killed more Russians than the German Army did.

  38. Referring to things like efforts to get people to quit smoking as “totalitarian” is absurd.

  39. I’d like to know where they got their statistics. They are making a serious mistake if they trust Soviet public health statistics. The news reported to the top tends to be sunnier than it actually is when you have a one party state and 1) no one can complain 2) if an apparatchik’s career depends on good statistics being reported. This is a large part of the reason why we thought that the Soviet Union was a serious economic threat for a long time.

  40. “lack of stressful economic competition” also lead to an atrocious healthcare system, horible environmental and workplace conditions and Soviet airplane mechanics drinking de-icer fluid.
    Not to mention the sucide rate. Ever been to Novosibirsk in February?

  41. And in another study just released,

    Slavery may be oppressive, but it seems as though freedom was bad for African-Americans’ health, according to a recent study which found significant increases in mortality rates after the abolition of slavery.

    That’s why the idea that communism had any redeeming features is anathema here.

    Yep, Edward, I was just thinking the same thing. I mean, even the idea that slavery had any redeeming features is anathema here as well. Just a bunch of closed minded ideologues these libertarians, I tell ya…

  42. jp,

    You got me. I filter everyone, but I’m psychic, so it does me no good.

    That’s how I actually know for a fact that joe is really Kevin McHale.

  43. Pro Lib — I also like to thrust my malacca cane in the faces of “blind” beggars. (But I guess you knew that before I could even type it.)

  44. Of course they studied the effects of the 1917 transition as well, right?

  45. Anyone know.. is the less communist China healthier or less healthy than the more communist China?

  46. This “study” actually made me laugh out loud. This is like a satire of the “correlation = causation” fallacy.

  47. This is silliness on stilts!

    The decrease in life expectancy in Russia is due to increase of alcoholism after the collapse of Communism! Capitalism didn’t do that!

  48. BTW, those aren’t gulags; they’re re-education camps! Get back to work, citizen.

  49. Referring to things like efforts to get people to quit smoking as “totalitarian” is absurd.

    Referring to things like efforts to force people to quit smoking as “totalitarian” is accurate.

  50. IIRC life expectancy was falling in communisms last years. And who said post-communist Russia was free?

  51. Deaths by violence have nothing to do with capitalism.

    Worst. “Study”. Ever.

  52. Communism did a lot to stamp out religious supersition and spread atheism.

  53. “Indoor cats live longer than outdoor ones.”

    And in the dark, all cats are black.

  54. Sir: In the dark all cats are gray.

  55. Well, Rocky may have beaten Drago, but Drago was hooked up to computers and shit. Now that’s tech.

  56. in the dark, black cats are invisible.

  57. Wow. You Reason writers are really something else. EVERY SINGLE ISSUE relating to the free market has to be only good news for you. Every attack on the beauty and wonder of the free market must be shown to be false. You can never be wrong. Never. Libertarianism (of the extreme-capitalism variety) is always right. Always.

    I have to say that I find the commentors here to be far more open-minded, intellectualy honest and interesting people than are the writers of the pieces. I appreciate you writers as you’ve taught me a great great deal and you’re often entertaining – but by God do you sound like a bunch of religious nuts impervious to all information that attacks your only and only True God.

    This applies to stuff like smoking and freely available automatic weapons too (where you’re entirely impervious to the facts) but it comes out most strongly with regards to your beloved freest of free markets.

    Can’t you say something like, “Yeah, free markets cause people lots of stress and by inspiring desire and jealousy they spurn some unhappiness but, at the end of the day, it’s still worth it because etc…”? I mean, isn’t it OBVIOUS that there are serious downsides to the average health of the population when there’s such a tremendous disparity between classes of citizens? I can respect a response like, “so what! It’s still the best of all systems because…” but I can not respect the fact that you deny (or in this case APPEAR to deny – based on the context of your report) that there are any serious downsides to capitalism or that in some cases libertarian dogma has been proven incorrect (such as with regards to the availablity of certain weapons without background checks, the dangers of second hand smoking, etc.).

    That’s too religious for me.

    mnuez
    http://www.mnuez.blogspot.com

  58. I mean, isn’t it OBVIOUS that there are serious downsides to the average health of the population when there’s such a tremendous disparity between classes of citizens?

    How would my life improve if Bill Gates and Warren Buffett had their wealth confiscated to the point where they were no richer than me? How would my health improve if I looked at my current low-rent status and thought “I will never ever be able to be any better off than I am now?”

  59. Damn Jennifer,

    I had this huge essay written that tried to say what you said in two elegant sentences. Wow.

    Just to add to your edifice:
    mnuez, I am a free-market anarchist, making me one of the few extremist libertarians on this site. My position is based on the bizarre notion that pointing guns at people who have injured no one and making them give me some of their property or do things differently than they otherwise would is wrong.

    If you want wealth redistributed – fine; go persuade those with wealth to give it up.

    If you want people to give up their arms – fine; go persuade those with guns to give them up.

    If you want to provide everyone with free-health care – fine; find doctors who are willing to work for free – or convince people to donate money to your cause. Incidentally, I would love to donate to this cause.

    But using the guns of the police, the all too real threat of kidnapping people and locking them in jail to force people to bend themselves to your utopian vision, your Kingdom of God on Earth is not moral. No matter how good your intentions are they are nullified by the evil means you resort to.

  60. guns are scary!

    Then The Blessed One, having dwelt in Uruvela as long as he wished, proceeded on his wanderings in the direction of Gaya Head, accompanied by a great congregation of priests, a thousand in number, who had all of them aforetime been monks with matted hair. And there in Gaya, on Gaya Head, the Blessed One dwelt, together with the thousand priests.

    And there The Blessed One addressed the priests:-

    “All things, O priests, are on fire. And what, O priests, are all these things which are on fire?

    “The eye, O priests, is on fire; forms are on fire; eye-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the eye are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye, that also is on fire.

    “And with what are these on fire?

    “With the fire of passion, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair are they on fire.

    “The ear is on fire; sounds are on fire; . . . the nose is on fire; odors are on fire; . . . the tongue is on fire; tastes are on fire; . . . the body is on fire; things tangible are on fire; . . . the mind is on fire; ideas are on fire; . . . mind-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the mind are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the mind, that also is on fire.

    “And with what are these on fire?

    “With the fire of passion, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair are they on fire.

    “Perceiving this, O priests, the learned and noble disciple conceives an aversion for the eye, conceives an aversion for forms, conceives an aversion for eye-consciousness, conceives an aversion for the impressions received by the eye; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye, for that also he conceives an aversion. Conceives an aversion for the ear, conceives an aversion for sounds, . . . conceives an aversion for the nose, conceives an aversion for odors, . . . conceives an aversion for the tongue, conceives an aversion for tastes, . . . conceives an aversion for the body, conceives an aversion for things tangible, . . . conceives an aversion for the mind, conceives an aversion for ideas, conceives an aversion for mind-consciousness, conceives an aversion for the impressions received by the mind; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the mind, for this also he conceives an aversion. And in conceiving this aversion, he becomes divested of passion, and by the absence of passion he becomes free, and when he is free he becomes aware that he is free; and he knows that rebirth is exhausted, that he has lived the holy life, that he has done what it behooved him to do, and that he is no more for this world.”

    Now while this exposition was being delivered, the minds of the thousand priests became free from attachment and delivered from the depravities.

    Here Endeth the Fire-Sermon.

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