The Economics Of Life And Death (Boston, 1991) by Prof John McMurtry

ABSTRACT: This paper begins with an explanation of the “life sequence of value,” which is defined by the formula Life->Means of Life->More Life (L->MofL->L1). The analysis then contrasts this general sequence of value to the “money sequence of value,” which is shown to have three autonomous forms not before distinguished: (1) Money->Means of Life->More Money ($->MofL->$1); (2) Money->Means of Life Destruction->More Money ($->MofD->$1); (3) Money->More Money->More Money ($->$1->$2->$3->$n). I explain how the first money sequence of value, analyzed by Marx in his classical formula of industrial capital (M->C->M1), has mutated so that the standard sequence of (1) assumed by economists has, in fact, been increasingly displaced by sequences (2) and (3). The argument shows that these sequences of economic “growth” increasingly dismantle environmental and civil life-fabrics, but remain unproblematic to the dominant economic paradigm whose measures of value do not register life-losses in their value accounts. It is concluded that a regrounding of economic understanding in the life sequence of value is required to avoid a cumulative breakdown in the conditions of social and planetary existence.

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Why is an Ounce of Prevention less valued than a Pound of Cure?

Over the past two decades of my study of and my practice in medicine, I have always been perplexed by the disconnect between the principle and the application of the proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Given the meteoric rise of non-communicable physical, mental and social diseases and the cost of their treatment and their burden to society, I would have guessed that policy makers would have made health promotion and disease prevention a top priority, and resources locally, regionally and internationally would have been invested in elucidating the determinants of health promotion and disease prevention and implementing the wisdom of that enlightenment.

Truth be told, much has been discovered over the past decade on adverse childhood experiences and the long-lasting effects on physical, mental and social diseases. Also Sir Michael Marmot and his collaborators have investigated the social determinants of health and have shown unequivocally that social gradients of inequality in terms of access to the basic means of life growth and development does in fact affect life expectancies and disability-adjusted-life-years. Given this trove of empirical data to guide our policy and decision makers, one would have thought that major steps would have been taken at the local, regional and international levels to remedy the social deficiencies in our homes, our schools and workplace environments. This would then serve to minimize adverse childhood experiences, (in addition to the adverse experiences of the adolescents, adults and the elderly) and would also serve to optimize the social, economic and political environments to produce enabling policies that would inform and encourage healthier lifestyles and behaviours. Read More