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Quality of Life in an Economic Downturn

I am not entirely sure why, but we never seem to want to talk about the positive moral, emotional and even psychological impact that a dynamic, prosperous and growing economy can have on a citizenry. Even ardent proponents of free-market economics and limited government seem content in hoping that 300 million people will just figure this stuff out by mere osmosis. During tough economic times, we do hear about the connections between economic policies and the well-being of our fellow citizens. But the connections seem to be loaded with anti-capitalist rhetoric blaming capitalism and the free-market system for our nation’s woes. In a recent CNBC article, we’re informed that the economic downturn gripping the entitlement-heavy states in Western Europe is the cause of rampant depression and a rising rate of suicides in countries like Greece and England:
Europe is approaching a crisis as the region’s debt crisis and austerity measures increase the rates of depression, suicide and psychological problems—just as governments cut healthcare spending by up to 50 percent, according to campaigners, policy makers and health organizations. A growing number of global and European health bodies are warning that the introduction and intensification of austerity measures has led to a sharp rise in mental health problems with suicide rates, alcohol abuse and requests for anti-depressants increasing as people struggle with the psychological cost of living through a European-wide recession.
Do you see the vicious cycle developing here? Nations spend money they don’t have on entitlement programs they can’t afford (and believe they need because of a secular-progressive notion of altruism that has never worked in places where it has been tried). Nations rack up unsustainable debt. And then nations are forced to cut the programs they couldn’t afford in the first place. Citizens are jolted back into the reality of a world where things like scarcity and trade-offs actually exist. After decades of narcotic-like dependence on government-controlled entitlements, people aren’t actually happy—and we begin to see an increase in things like protests, riots, depression—even suicide. Sounds like quite the unhealthy relationship, right? Of course, it must be noted that there are people with ongoing mental health needs, and some of them are unable to get the help they need during these times. There should be help available for the poorest of the poor who can’t afford necessary medicine. The very social safety net that the Left warns will fall apart if we don’t hurry to implement laws like Obamacare may, in fact, be the first thing to snap under the weight of an unduly cumbersome regulatory state under severe austerity measures. For many people in socialist countries, there is nowhere else to turn after they annex their creator-endowed sovereignty to the state. I can’t imagine anything more depressing than the moment someone living under such a system finally realizes that the music has stopped and they’re without a government-subsidized chair to sit on. We’ve been told for two consecutive generations that free health care, redistribution of wealth and progressive tax policies were just the things that could cure mankind’s societal (and even spiritual) ills. But every time that utopian dream is exposed as a nightmare by the unforgiving light of human history, the response is to condemn capitalism and free enterprise and (gasp!) deregulation. My heart breaks for those who feel so disillusioned by current economic uncertainty that they become depressed—or worse. But if making poor economic decisions and implementing disastrous fiscal policies warrants moral condemnation and evokes such self-destructive responses from the population, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should spend some time promoting the free enterprise system that works? If turbulent economic times cause people such psychological damage, shouldn’t we embrace prosperity-inducing measures that lead to a higher quality of life?