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Development as Freedom von [Sen, Amartya]
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From Booklist

Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics, has produced a work of eminent value. He focuses on the tendency of Western economics to emphasize gross national product or aggregate wealth as indicators of national well-being. A more sentient measure of the usefulness and value of development is whether it expands "real freedoms that people enjoy." Sen examines other determinants of a nation's wealth, such as social and economic arrangements, political and civil rights, industrialization and technological progress and modernization, factors that can substantially contribute to expanding human freedom. However, as both a means and an end, freedom (the need for the individual to be involved in making decisions regarding his or her life) provides the foundation for well-being. Sen provides practical examples of the application of his concepts. Despite a healthy GNP in the U.S., African American men have a shorter life expectancy than men living in certain Third World countries. This book is a great read for social, as well as political and economic, planners. Vernon Ford

From Kirkus Reviews

Economics meets philosophy in this wide-ranging manifesto that identifies freedom as the agent of universal development as well as its goal. Sen, the 1998 Nobel laureate in economics, points out, among many things, that there has never been famine in functioning democracies, including modern India, Botswana, and Zimbabwe (democratic officeholders, unlike colonial functionaries or dictators, are obliged to respond to impending shortages). High per capita income does not necessarily mean longer life (poor residents of Kerala, India, can expect to live longer than richer American blacks). In much of the world, gender inequality causes distorted male-female ratios (thus, there are ``missing women''). Sen analyzes a myriad of such considerations and offers a thoughtful synthesis of welfare economics, political principles, and ethics. He asks fundamental questions, challenges common assumptions, and takes on diverse shibboleths. Lest you think a statement like ``low income is clearly one of the major causes of poverty'' is foolishly simplistic, hold on as he proceeds to demonstrate that there are other important causes for capability deprivation,'' as he characterizes poverty. ``Human development . . . is an ally of the poor,'' he says. ``It is an indication of the topsy-turvy world in which we live that the school-teacher or the nurse feels more threatened by financial conservatism than does the army general.'' The lucid insights are abundant as Sen marshals scores of thinkers from Aristotle to Rabindranath Tagore, Confucius to Bentham. His text is, as well, a sly review of his contemporaries and a sagacious reappraisal of Adam Smith. Casual readers may find rough going with a lexicon like ``complemantarity'' or ``chosen functioning vector,'' but the expansive discussion will surely attract contemplative public policy practitioners. This learned book, more diagnostic than prescriptive, convinces us of freedom's value and utility in economic development. Less clear: how to bring freedom about in the world. Sen's book must nevertheless be seen as a seminal and influential text for students and makers of policy. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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When learning economics at university I had "Economics" by Samuelson as a handbook. I learned a lot from it and I still consider it as perhaps the best available introduction into classical economics. On its own ground, this book can hardly be surpassed. But, as many others, I have come to the conclusion that the classical paradigm of economics, which this book reflects, has serious shortcomings. Samuelson fleetingly points out some of them, but he does not pay much attention to this aspect.
Of course, there exists an abundant literature by less orthodox economists in which these questions are discussed at length. Unfortunately, much of this literature is rather unbalanced.
Recently I discovered "Development as Freedom" by Amartya Sen. Finally I found a book that offers a balanced philosophical reflexion on the premises of classical economics and its relevance for the development problem.
Mr. Sen asks questions rarely asked by economist. What purpose does the acquisition of wealth serve? Mr. Sen argues that dire poverty makes people unfree. Wealth is a means to freedom. From that perspective he draws very interesting conclusions concerning development policy.
Classical economics can be a useful tool in understanding society. Samuelson's book is an excellent introduction into this discipline. But in order to put the classical paradigm in perspective, you should also read "Development as Freedom" by Mr. Sen. It is a deep and compassionate book by a wise man.
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Im vorliegenden Werk „Development as Freedom“ entwickelt der Nobelpreisträger Amartya Sen alternative Definitionen von Armut und Entwicklung. Schnell wird deutlich wie einseitig und beschränkt Betrachtungsweisen sind, die sich ausschließlich auf Einkommen oder ähnliche Faktoren konzentrieren. Für Sen ist Einkommen nur von instrumenteller Bedeutung. Es soll uns ermöglichen ein Leben gemäß unseren Vorstellungen und Wünschen zu führen. Eben dies sieht Sen als oberstes Ziel alles wirtschaftlichen Strebens an. Als Entwicklung ist also all das zu bezeichnen, was unsere Freiheit erweitert.

Sen argumentiert, dass Freiheiten einerseits das Ziel von Entwicklung sind, andererseits aber auch zu weiterer Entwicklung beitragen können. So kann beispielsweise Bildung für Frauen zu geringeren Geburtenraten führen und so zum Verschwinden absoluter Armut beitragen (besonders interessant sind an dieser Stelle die Erfolge indischer Staaten, denen es ohne staatlichen Zwang, wie z.B. in China, gelang die Geburtenrate unter 2,0 zu senken!). Hier wird klar wie komplex Armut und Entwicklung sind. Oft kommt man unter Einsatz von Sens weitreichenden Definitionen zu erstaunlichen Ergebnissen. So haben beispielsweise Afro-Amerikaner ein wesentlich höheres Durchschnittseinkommen als die Einwohner des indischen Staates Kerala. Doch sind sie wirklich weniger arm? Kerala ist es gelungen durch staatliche Eingriffe die Lebenserwartung seiner Bewohner erheblich zu steigern. Die Programme waren so erfolgreich, dass die Menschen in Kerala zum Zeitpunkt des Erscheinens des vorliegenden Werkes im Durchschnitt eine höhere Lebenserwartung hatten als Afro-Amerikaner.
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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.
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Von Ein Kunde am 3. Mai 2000
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A must read. In this carefully analyzed work, Sen presents the basic essense of development that seems to have been forgotten by many economists focused in creation of wealth and in measurement of GDP and GNP. Amartya Sen presents how essential freedom is as an end to the process of development and indicates the futility of economic development with unfreedoms of people. The fact many major international organizations are revising their development programs on Sen's notion of development indeed presents how vital his notions are for any society. - Mumtaz
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