America’s Self-Destructive Whites
Maybe it’s conservatives who tend to spend the majority of their time pissing bile this past decade or so.
A conventional explanation for this middle-class stress and anxiety is that globalization and technological change have placed increasing pressures on the average worker in industrialized nations. But the trend is absent in any other Western country — it’s an exclusively American phenomenon. And the United States is actually relatively insulated from the pressures of globalization, having a vast, self-contained internal market.
Deaton speculated to me that perhaps Europe’s more generous welfare state might ease some of the fears associated with the rapid change. Certainly he believes that in the United States, doctors and drug companies are far too eager to deal with physical and psychological pain by prescribing drugs, including powerful and addictive opioids. The introduction of drugs such as Oxycontin, a heroin-like prescription painkiller, coincides with the rise in deaths.
But why don’t we see the trend among other American ethnic groups? While mortality rates for middle-age whites have stayed flat or risen, the rates for Hispanics and blacks have continued to decline significantly. These groups live in the same country and face greater economic pressures than whites. Why are they not in similar despair?