Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A healthy recession

Life and death during the Great Depression — PNAS:
Correlation and regression analyses confirmed a significant negative effect of economic expansions on health gains. The evolution of population health during the years 1920–1940 confirms the counterintuitive hypothesis that, as in other historical periods and market economies, population health tends to evolve better during recessions than in expansions.

This is not new: "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?" The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2000:
Total mortality and eight of the ten sources of fatalities examined are shown to exhibit a procyclical fluctuation, with suicides representing an important exception. The variations are largest for those causes and age groups where behavioral responses are most plausible, and there is some evidence that the unfavorable health effects of temporary upturns are partially or fully offset if the economic growth is long-lasting

Although the effect is apparently real, the health benefits during recessions are unequally distributed and widen the income induced health gap:
Self-rated health improved in absolute terms for all occupational groups even after the economic recession. However, the relative disparity increased between the top and middle occupational groups in men.

The health debacles that occur during periods of rapid growth are equally obvious:
Cancer casts a shadow over the villages in this region of China in southern Guangdong province, nestled among farmland contaminated by heavy metals used to make batteries, computer parts and other electronics devices.
Every year, an estimated 460,000 people die prematurely in China due to exposure to air and water pollution, according to a 2007 World Bank study.

...Thus adding a few more exhibits to the question of relevance of GDP as any sort of measure of human happiness, or the obviousness of the need for its incessant growth...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Labor History / US

In Memoriam: Crystal Lee Sutton ('Norma Rae'). Working Class Hero.

Ampersand: Labor History: A Brief History of Corporate Whining

By B. Deutsch

Some notes:

1. Commonwealth v. Hunt 1842
2. The Thibodaux Massacre of 1887
3. Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (I think this is what the 1912 cartoon refers to)
4. Yellow Dog contracts legal, 1915
5. Child Labor Amendment, 1924
6. Fair Labor Standards Act, 1938
7. Equal Pay Act, 1963
8. Occupational Safety and Health Act, 1970
9. Today

... All this to make a point: it was never easy and they always whined. Not to mention the fact that it always bears reminding that the US was the stage of a hard, bloody and bitter class struggle. And, hey! What do you know, the tide is turning. I did not believe that I'd see the day when an overtly anti-capitalist documentary would be poised to become a major box-office hit in the US, but things sure change fast:

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Marxist History of the 20th century

A Marxist History of the 20th Century. Narrated by Alan Woods, with Lal Khan, Ted Grant and Noam Chomsky. Produced by Heiko Khoo.