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Suicide and capitalism

By Tyler Koch
web posted November 28, 2022

Suicide - a horrific and devastating cause of death that plagues our society now more than ever. Between 1999 and 2016, the national suicide rate increased almost 30%, with nearly 45,000 taking their life, 10 million contemplating suicides, and 1.3 million attempts of it. There is no simple explanation to these unfortunate victims’ decisions, though poor mental health, working, and living conditions, victims are much more likely to consider taking their life. In his article, “Suicide and the Social Crisis”, Luke Pickrell argues that the conditions which provoke suicide are ultimately caused by the system of capitalism. However, I believe that capitalism is the best system ever introduced into our culture, as proven by its success through the years and the failure of other systems, such as communism.

First off, the articles made a point that “the social and emotional lives of human beings can’t be separated from their lived economic reality.” While this may be true for some people, the statement made in the article sounds as if all humans are unable to separate the two factors, which is false. There are many successful, as well as unsuccessful, people I know that can come home after a long day of work and completely disconnect from their “working mindset” and relax without worry. As for the people I know that are not in a financially stable situation, they put it in God’s hands and trust that he will deliver them, of which many of them have come out the other side. While the statement that poor living/ economic conditions can influence suicide rates may have partly influenced the suicides, that is not the whole reason. Similarly, the statement that humans cannot separate their economic situational lives from their emotional lives is false, as seen in the many people able to completely disconnect the two.

Furthermore, Pickrell’s article places the blame of worsening economic life on the system of capitalism. He writes, “Working under capitalism is alienating. Workers are pushed harder and longer than ever before… housing is unaffordable. Climate catastrophe looms. War seems unending. Individuals feel powerless and alone.” While some of these conditions may be partly true, they are completely unrelated to capitalism and its institution. For example, for much of human history, the entire world lived in poverty, and that did not change for thousands of years. The entire world consisted of farmers, with the only exception being the king and the ones around him, as was the same for every country. Although, with the rise of the industrial revolution and capitalism, average people were enabled with the power to achieve success and climb out of the ditches. In fact, according to the World Bank, “Over the past 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in history.” Most of this is thanks to capitalism and the free market. As seen in Hong Kong before communist China overtook it, much of the poor population was able to climb the ladder of success

Now, relating this to the article, poor financial and economic conditions may have contributed to the suicide rates, though it’s root cause was not due to the installment of capitalism. Through the system, everybody is given equal opportunity, and it is up to the individual to take advantage and capitalize on these gifts. With this in mind, most cases of these financial instabilities have been due to the victim themselves: whether it be a lack of motivation or lack of responsibility, it was mostly the individual, not the system.

Overall, though the suicides may have been partly due to poot living conditions and lives of the people, this was not the entire cause. A large part of the problem is often the individual themselves, whether it be a lack of motivation or thereof. Similarly, capitalism did not provoke and cause these conditions: it gives every person opportunity, and it is up to the individual to take advantage of and capitalize these gifts. As seen in the perfect example of pre-communistic Hong Kong, capitalism enabled the poor to climb out of poverty, and achieve success in their goals. Suicide is a major problem in our society and needs a solution, though blaming its causes on capitalism does not achieve anything, and it in fact is a false accusation. ESR

Tyler Koch is an AP Economics student in high school. (c) 2022 Tyler Koch

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