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Unusual and thoughtful study of development
In this classic work, leading political economist Amartya Sen writes, "Despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers - perhaps even the majority of people." "It is hard to understand how a compassionate world order can include so many people afflicted by acute misery, persistent hunger and deprived and desperate lives, and why millions of innocent children have to die each year from lack of food or medical attention or social care." He points out that female literacy and employment have the only proven, statistically significant effect on cutting fertility. He notes, "we would expect the Chinese fertility rate to be much lower than the Indian average, given China's significantly greater achievement in education, health care, female job opportunities and other ingredients of social development." He also observes, "the Maoist policies of land reform, expansion of literacy, enlargement of public health care and so on had a very favourable effect on economic growth in post-reform China. The extent to which post-reform China draws on the results achieved in pre-reform China needs greater recognition." Sen writes, "in terms of life expectancies, the communist countries often did quite well, relatively speaking . several of the ex-communist countries now are in a significantly worse position than they were under communist rule." When there are 20 million unemployed in the EU, he asserts that 'policy in Europe has to give real priority to eliminating the capability deprivation that severe unemployment entails'. He argues against the dogmatic prioritising of deficit reduction. He consistently stresses that people are active agents of change, not passive recipients of aid or benefits. He points out, "The acknowledgement of the role of human qualities in promoting and sustaining economic growth - momentous as it is - tells us nothing about why economic growth is sought in the first place. If, instead, the focus is, ultimately, on the expansion of human freedom to live the kind of lives that people have reason to value, then the role of economic growth in expanding these opportunities has to be integrated into that more foundational understanding of the process of development as the expansion of human capability to lead more worthwhile and more free lives." In particular, female literacy and employment are vital to development and freedom. He concludes, "the big challenges that capitalism now faces in the contemporary world include issues of inequality (especially that of grinding poverty in a world of unprecedented prosperity) and of 'public goods' (that is, goods that people share together, such as the environment). The solution to these problems will almost certainly call for institutions that take us beyond the capitalist market economy."
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Posted June 9, 2009
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