Russia’s biggest security threat is what W. C. Fields used to call “potato juice”, not NATO. Reuters reports on a new study in The Lancet:
A quarter of all Russian men die before they reach their mid-fifties and their passion for alcohol—particularly vodka—is largely to blame, according to research published on Friday.A study of more than 150,000 people found extraordinarily high premature death rates among male Russians, some of whom reported drinking three or more bottles a week of the potent clear spirit.Perhaps unsurprisingly, deaths among heavy drinkers were mainly due to alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence and suicide, as well as diseases such as throat and liver cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, pancreatitis and liver disease.
This phenomenon also contributes to weak families, perpetuating the cycle. It means Russia has a workforce that is much less healthy, skilled, motivated, and effective than a successful economy needs. By these means, Russia also loses the civic contributions of older, experienced, and mature men, and many young men are wasting their lives in a cycle of alienation and despair medicated by intoxication. Ultimately, it also contributes to the cheapening of political discourse, with the population more vulnerable to demagogic appeals and civic passivity. It’s a human tragedy of immense proportions and is significant enough to be a serious factor in Russia’s failure to establish a strong post-Soviet polity and economy.Other countries—including the UK and the United States—had similar problems at different states of their development, and the decision of social reformers (often motivated by Christian faith) to build strong temperance movements led to major changes and reforms that immensely strengthened both societies and laid a foundation for further progress. Because of the Prohibition foolishness in the West, we have forgotten the vital contributions to national and personal well being that the temperance movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries brought to the table.Furthermore, we ought not be too smug about these issues. Looking at the impact of drug abuse on so many people and families in the U.S., we, too, ought to remember that temperance, divorced from Prohibition, was one of the greatest forces for good in American history.