This article by Prof. Mackenbach, published by Project Syndicate is WORTH A READ. Check it out!
When I saw the title I was expecting the article to be about deaths from war; in wars, the largest share of the soldiers come from poor backgrounds. I was a little surprised that the article focused on effectiveness of postwar social policies in Europe. In particular, the article highlights that the poor, typically from less educated, lower income, social lower classes, die younger; Mackenbach noted that this trend was also present in Scandinavia, often highlighted as the beacon for social policy. The author concluded that the solution was higher taxes that favored redistribution in favor of the poor.
I was particularly interested in the following comment:
Long-term time-series data indicate that the socioeconomic mortality gap narrowed before the 1950’s, but has grown substantially since then.
Personally, I am uncomfortable with the argument in favor of higher taxes designed to take from the rich and give to the poor, like in the current French model. Based on my political views, I favor lower taxes, a small state and a meritocracy that favors individualism.
In my mind, social policies have been increasingly abused by do-good politicians, inefficient bureaucrats, and ungrateful recipients. Austerity policies across Europe have helped to highlight the causes of the socioeconomic mortality gap, namely smoking, physical exercise, diet, and alcohol consumption.
For me, Germany provides a good model or benchmark for social policies, and France and the UK highlight ineffective policies.
This leads me to an emerging open question:
In austerity savaged Europe, what should policy-makers do about the socioeconomic mortality gap, i.e. poorer people die younger?