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Development as Freedom

The book Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen was reviewed in 1999 by Craig Hubley as follows:

"Individual freedom finally assigned an economic value, November 25, 1999

Human well-being is the *goal*, not a *side effect*, of social and economic life. This seems to be common sense. But few economists can subtract: no consensus exists on how to account for harms done to man or world, or to human potential discarded. How do we get beyond 'wealth' to understand 'value'?

Sen has a solution. Extending his previous works 'On Ethics and Economics' (1989) and 'Choice, Welfare, and Measurement' (1997), he offers a model of human freedom and free choice as sole measure of value. He restates 'political' and 'ethical' problems as economic ones and measures the negative impact of denying human freedom to choose. For instance, reliance on expensive systems of distribution and mediation, instead of (anarchic) peer relations.

Like Smith and Marx, Sen revisits the assumptions of economic life: why do we work? Why would we put ourselves in positions to endanger ourselves and waste our precious and irreplaceable time on Earth? From his first example, a poor man who was knifed to death for simple lack of freedom to avoid visiting 'a hostile area in troubled times', Sen reminds us that money is worth nothing without time and something to buy that we want more than the time we spent to get it. Escaping the ethical relativism which traps most economists (although, strangely, retaining the moral relativism of human existence and avoiding the 'natural capital' view that there are absolute and transhuman values that humans can ignore, e.g. integrity of DNA/RNA life) he focuses clearly on 'human capital' and how it is liberated through the mechanisms of 'freedom'. Transcends mere structural models such as those of Thurow and Mundell, proposes causal relationships more like those of Herman Wold, Karl Marx and Adam Smith.

A powerful and convincing work by the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics. Possibly the first credible anarchist economist."

This page licensed "(c)1999 Craig Hubley - permission granted to copy without restriction as long as this notice remains", i.e. CC-by