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Customer Review

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Humanitarian" Economics for the 21st Century:, 27 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
A readable and reasoned evaluation of the need to place "humanity" rather than "Economics" at the forefront of development. Sen questions the rational behind economist's supremacy in the field and graphically illustrates the dangers of such a myopic view. Sen places the "freedom" to live the life one has reason to value at the forefront of his argument. What lies at the heart of this book is the belief that the object of development is "increasing the range of human choice".
The most powerful example Sen gives of the danger of blind faith in the power of the Markets is the lesson taken away by the Development Community from the experience of the East & S.East Asian Tigers. In contradiction to the commonly held view which sees the Markets as central to the Tiger's success, Sen considers the E.Asian economic boom to be the result of the implementation of basic social policies, such as an emphasis on elementary education and health. He compares them to South Asia who duly swallowed the "lesson" and followed the East Asian market formula. Despite this S.Asia has consistantly failed to achieve the expected economic growth. Sen points to the S. Asian government's failure to implement basic social policies and stresses the fact that those implemented are often counter productive, such as an emphasis on higher education at the expense of universal elementary education etc.
He does not deny the necessarily close relationship between economic improvement and social improvement but he takes an extra step back and reminds his readers that true economic improvement, which will benefit a cross-section of society (rather than a privledges elite, and this is the main crux), is often a by-product of social development rather than the other way round.
Sen's seemingly radical stance is merely a return to older thought on the subject. Among others, he quotes from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics to illustrate his point: "Wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else".
Sen's is a valuable lesson, not only to all who work in the "Development Industry", whether Economists or otherwise, but to those politicians and think-tanks who take development in the "First World" for granted.
Criticism of his work as "impractical" merely outlines the Development Industry's fascination with quick-fixes, whose long term consequences often prove disasterous. His stress on basic freedoms of choice is highly adaptable. Sen presents us with a foundation on which to build . His is not a cure all formula to be rigidly applied.
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