Free trade kills

As if the costs of free trade weren’t already high enough, some researchers have determined that free trade, specifically with China, is literally killing more white working-class Americans than guns and traffic combined.

Increasing competition with China for trade has been blamed for soaring death rates among white, middle aged Americans. A silent ‘epidemic’ of deaths from suicides, drug and alcohol poisoning within that faction was first highlighted last year. But scientists were baffled as to why white, middle aged Americans were bucking the national trend of decreasing death rates. Now two economists believe they have found the answer.

Justin Pierce and Peter Schott believe they can trace back the uptick in suicides, drug overdoses, and alcohol-related deaths to 2000, when President Bill Clinton decided to relax the rules on major imports.

Between 1978 and 1998, the study reveals the mortality rate for US whites aged 45 to 54 fell by an average of two per cent each year. This was reflected in other rich countries, including France, Germany, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Sweden. After 1998, these nations saw mortality rates for this group steadily continue to fall, by two per cent every year.

But, in the US, mortality rates rose by half a per cent a year. The authors wrote: ‘No other rich country saw a similar turnaround.’ They estimate that had the white mortality in the US rate held at its 1998 value, 96,000 lives would have been saved between 1998 and 2013. And had it continued to fall as it had between 1978 and 1998, 488,500 deaths would have been avoided from 1999 to 2013.

This figure is comparable to the number of deaths caused by the Aids epidemic in the US.

While death rates related to drugs, alcohol and suicides have risen for middle-aged whites across the board, the largest surge are seen among those with the least education. A shock rise in mortality rates for middle-aged, white Americans has been driven by a rise in suicides, drug and alcohol poisonings and liver disease. In 2011, poisonings overtook lung cancer as a leading cause of death in this group and suicides is poised to do so, Princeton researchers said For those with a high school degree or less, deaths caused by drug and alcohol poisoning rose four fold, suicides increased by 81 per cent, and deaths caused by liver disease and cirrhosis jumped 50 per cent.

All-cause mortality rose by 22 per cent for this least-educated group. Among those with some college education, researchers noted little change in overall death rates. While among those people who achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, death rates fell.

Free trade was already dead from an economic and nationalist perspective. This should make it clear that there is no longer a moral case for free trade. It is both deeply inequitable and deplorably immoral; it is simply another form of the historical predation of the elite upon the peasantry. And it is, therefore, a significant and growing factor in the cliodynamical stresses that are leading towards the ultimate dissolution of the United States.