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How Politics Makes Us Sick: Neoliberal Epidemics              (6.5/10) Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra argue that the obesity, insecurity, austerity and inequality that result from neoliberal (or 'market fundamentalist') policies are hazardous to our health.
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The best way, I think, to describe this little book is as a fast-paced version of 'the Health  Gap' (which I reviewed previously here), but that where that lays out a case for  inequalities and inequities as a cause for disease, 'How Politics Makes Us Sick" moves one  step further and specifically lays the blame at the feet of neoliberal politics. It is outlined  by the authors in more detail here: (link)  As you can imagine, regardless of how strong this case would have been made, some  people were not going to like that. And indeed, a combination of Christopher Snowdon  from the Institute of Economic Affairs and the website Spiked were quick in their attempt  to shoot down the book. As you would expect from this combination, the nuances  described in the book are largely ignored and with a characteristically blunt approach they  attempt to just "shout louder" than the authors. Anyway,  I provide the link to their book  discussion here (link), so that you can make up your own mind. So what did I think of the book? I thought it was actually quite good. As a whole the arguments were quite convincing and  in my personal opinion I think they are broadly correct as well. Of course, providing causal  arguments for such a complex issue is very difficult, but the authors do state specifically  that they do not argue that neoliberalism as the sole cause of rising levels of obesity,  insecurity and inequality, but that it is one of the contributing factors.   Indeed, I think it is safe to say that it does not help... So there nothing in that "shouting match" from the neoliberal corner worth considering? In  fact there are. For example, it is true that a problem like obesity is, in part, the result of  having enough money to buy more than enough food to survive, and this increase in wealth  is, in part, the result of the free market. Of course, if we look within the most neoliberal  countries we also see that those at the bottom of the income scale have enough money to  feed themselves, but do have problems when it comes to buying healthy food; for example  either because they do not have enough money and because access to healthy foods is far  from optimal. It would have been relatively easy to highlight and discuss these argument,  thereby strengthening the central premises of the book, but unfortunately the authors did  not do so. As such, it feels a bit like an incomplete piece of work (maybe future expanded  reprints are planned, I dont know).   There is one thing Christopher Snowdon is correct about; the book is prohibitively  expensive (£18 for the paperback at the time of writing). He sees this as a benefit, since it means the book will not expand beyond a small circle of academics and some political  organisations, and he is right. I see this as a missed opportunity in infusing some  counterarguments into the current political debate in which increasingly free markets and  austerity are labelled as the only credible economic plans.   It really is too bad that the authors did not spend a bit more time on working through the  arguments in a bit more detail, providing more examples and discussing some of the issues that were, predictably, put forward in the Spiked review. The argument against  neoliberalism is one that deserves more attention in the mainstream media, and the book  could have had a similar impact to 'The Health Gap" and "The Spirit Level", if a bit more  time had been spent on it. It really is a shame.  So with a 6.5 out of 10; should you buy it? I suggest you do. It is a short and compelling  story. Just....well....share it with your friends so you can share the costs of purchase.