woensdag 1 juli 2009

Development as Freedom (Sen 1999)

This is a link to the powerpoint presentation on Development as Freedom (Sen 1999). To open the file, click on your right mouse, copy the link and place it in your browser.


Amartya Sen presents in this book a vision on development that is different from what we are used to read. It is not focussed on economic development, but on human development. Economic development is considered a means for people to expand their individual freedoms, but not an end in itself.

Sen identifies five instrumental freedoms that contribute to the expansion of individual freedom and thus to development:

* political freedoms
* economic facilities
* social opportunities(health and education)
* transparancy guarantees
* protective security

Progress or process that does not enhance individual freedoms in these terms, is not considered development according to Sen. In other words, adquiring economic wealth at the cost of the liberty of others, is not development.

Sen argues that the Pareto optimality of market efficiency assumes self-interest maximization. He considers this an assumption that is empirically hard to defend. Not everyone is out to only fulfill that goal. Against the Arrow-Debreu proposal he suggests we avoid discussing what motivates people as everyone has another personal, private drive to justify his or her behavior. He argues that the point is not the achievement of interest fulfillment, but the availability of freedom, no matter whether the freedom is aimed at self-interest or some other objective.

Following Sen's interpretation of optimality: a competitive market equilibrium guarantees that no one's freedom can be increased any further while maintaining the freedom of everyone else. The assumption does not only focus on the number of options available to individuals, but on their attractiveness or quality as well.

This means, that freedom is the word and that all have a right to enjoy the same level and quality of freedom. Individual freedom is a social product, a social commitment and no higher level of freedom can be persuit by one person, if others do not have the same opportunities one has. That is the statement.

The freedoms Sen is talking about are substantive freedoms, that facilitate people to live the lives they want and have reason to value. We must respect, in other words, that others want another way of living then we do, and we should not judge or interfere in that, as long as it is not at the cost of the freedom of others.

Policy analysis should focus on whether social arrangements, including all possible involved institutions, contribute to the development of the enhancement of individual freedoms for all. To instrumentalize his vision he proposes a capability diagnosis rather than means-testing for public policy to be targeted. It is not about income alone, it is about so many other aspects, particularly health and education related, that need to be taken into account when defining public policy.

The point is that different kinds of freedoms facilitate the enhancement of other kinds of freedoms, for example, political freedom enhances economic freedom and vice versa, and social freedom (health and education) enhances both. We need all of these to be readily available to all if we want the world to be a fairer place. Political freedom will lead to more public discussion and that is the only way to get public policy right.

There is no argument to limit political freedom as a way to enhance economic growth (the 'Lee-thesis'): economic growth is simply not the goal. And there is no argument to limit any kind of individual freedom that does not limit the individual freedom of others.

Development as freedom. Sen provides evidence from different countries and times. His argument is very convincing. Read the power point presentation and then, read the book.