Deaths of Despair

In 2017, 158,000 Americans died from what we call deaths of despair: suicide, overdoses, and alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis. This is the equivalent of three full 737 MAXs falling out of the sky every day, with no survivors.

The new book Deaths of Despair: And the Future of Capitalism by economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton attempts to explain their important discovery—the declining lifespans of working-class white Americans since the turn of the century—by way of a strained analogy with the social chaos that African-Americans unleashed upon themselves as soon as the civil rights struggle was won for them in the 1960s:

What happened to inner-city African Americans after midcentury is, we shall argue, a foreshadowing of our account of whites in the 21st century….

But the more I study the White Death of the past two decades, the more I am instead reminded of the tragic trajectory of a now much less publicized American race, Native Americans. Like American Indians, working-class white Americans seem to be living, and dying, like a defeated people, quietly offing themselves with so little to-do that nobody even noticed what was happening to working-class white lifespans for the first fifteen years of this century. Deaths of Despair and ... Deaton, Angus Best Price: $20.71 Buy New $20.68 (as of 04:10 UTC - Details)

Indians used to be admired by whites for having put up a strong fight for over 250 years, in contrast to blacks, who were relatively easy to dominate. But in this century, whites have lost interest in Indians, who also seem to have lost interest in themselves as the other Indians have come to play a much larger role in American life.

Human beings have always concocted rationalizations for why they deserve privilege. For most of history, a common explanation of why you should be privileged was that your ancestors were warriors and conquerors who had defeated their foes.

In 21st-century America, however, the new fashion for asserting your claim to privilege is that you come from a long line of victims and losers. By intention, this leaves white Americans, the descendants of the men who won The Big One and went to the Moon, psychically dispossessed in their own native land.

Another obvious analog to the White Death in America is how Russian men drank themselves into an early grave during their defeat in the Cold War. Case and Deaton note in passing that life expectancy for Russian males declined by 7.3 years between 1987 and 1994. But since 2005, Russian life expectancy has rebounded.

As the US suffers from its epidemic of deaths, Russia appears to have overcome its own.

We’re Still Here... Silva, Jennifer M. Best Price: $20.75 Buy New $17.99 (as of 04:10 UTC - Details) It’s worth remembering that the main reason the media paid attention to Case and Deaton’s paper in November 2015 demonstrating that white lifespans had been falling since the end of the 1990s was because Deaton had won the (quasi) Nobel Prize for economics just the month before. This horrible trend had been happening for fifteen years with virtually no news coverage. As Case and Deaton explain, they were shocked to discover in 2014 the life-shortening trends besetting whites.

Back in 2014–2015, the mainstream media were instead obsessed with proving that the police were racistly gunning down blacks in vastly larger numbers than their propensity toward violence would warrant. In truth, though, blacks only comprise about 30% of all victims of police shootings, while committing 57% of gun homicides. That’s not, by the way, because cops particularly want to kill more whites than blacks. It appears to be mostly because suicide-by-cop is much more of a white thing than a black thing.

In contrast to whites these days, African-Americans in the late 1960s, when they started to overdose and murder each other in ever larger numbers, were a triumphant race, celebrated all over the world for their soul. The black murder rate accelerated in 1964, the year of the landmark Civil Rights Act, and grew higher into the mid-1970s, then peaked during the gangsta-rap/crack era of the early 1990s, then soared again during the Great Awokening in the two years after Ferguson. In other words, blacks seem to shoot each other the most precisely when they are encouraged by whites to feel best about themselves.

Read the Whole Article