September 22, 2002

Suicides Increase Under Conservatives

According to Nature magazine, two separate studies taken of the last century in Britain and Australia show that suicides rise under conservative governments.

"Alienation and isolation may run higher in societies driven by competitive market forces, suggest the teams behind the findings. Left-wing rule, focusing more on equality, might put people under less pressure."

Even taking into account the effects of drought, both world wars, and the availability of sedatives, the studies found that "men and women were 17 and 40 per cent more likely to take their own lives, respectively, with conservatives in power."

This is another case of the scientific method confirming what common sense would tell us if we stopped to think about it for a moment. Of course a sort of social Darwinist form of government would lead to more weeding out "weaker elements," and conservatives -- if you catch them in an honest moment -- would say that is fine with them, until of course they fall upon hard times themselves. Arch-conservative tough guy New York mayor Rudy Giuliani reversed his position on paying for health care for uninsured children after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. "I have to admit," he said, "Once I got cancer, I began to see things in a new light."

But healthy conservatives who are doing well exhibit no such concern for the less fortunate. As Dickens' Scrooge said, "If they'd rather die, they'd better do it and decrease the surplus population!"

Consider, for example, the cost of subsidizing education, as was done in post World War II America. It led to a generally higher level of education in the population, many who benefited from the GI bill were enabled to pursue higher level professions than they could have without the subsidy. Without looking at studies, it would not be a big jump to say the the level of economic productivity rose as a result, not to mention a higher degree of overall social well-being, which may be harder to measure, but is certainly something the population does appreciate. So how do we quantify that value when we say, as conservatives today say, that "we can't afford to subsidize education."

These same conservatives will fund the purchase of weapons to drive military exploits, the most wasteful imaginable activities, unless you happen to be among the groups who benefit economically from war. They will subsidize the construction of prisons to store the people who turn to crime because there are no jobs and there is no welfare. They especially like it if the prisons are privatized so the profits can go into private hands.

And why should a prison generate profits in the first place? That is not its function.

Conservative positions are not justifiable in terms of economics. A country that provides health care for its citizens will have a healthier citizenry who will need less medical treatment in the long run and it will cost the society less money overall. These conservative practices are not economically conservative. They are based on knee-jerk reactions that stem from beliefs in scarcity and survival of the fittest -- ideas which become self fulfilling prophecies. Though conservatives justify their mean social policies by saying, "we can't afford these things," in fact the differences between so called conservative and liberal positions are really only questions about what kind of society you want to have. Conservatives build societies in their own images, reflecting a fearful world view in which only the strong survive so I'd better get mine so I'm one of the survivors.

It is not less expensive to put people into prison than to put them into schools and give them the means to survive without turning to crime. It is not more economical, but it is meaner. American society in the Age of Nixon (as Robert Dole called it) is a society that embodies the conservative world view. Instead of schools and healthcare, we have prisons and wars. It's just a different point of view.

-- By David Cogswell

Back to Home Page