Tue Jan 2nd, 2007 at 11:44:39 AM EST
I finished my reading for 2006 by reading through Sen's Development as Freedom, in which he puts forward the thesis that we should think of development as something that increases the real freedoms and capabilities of people.
It's a book with lots of things to interest us here - a view of poverty as capability deprivation, the role of markets, the value of improving women's education and economic freedoms and the relationship between culture and human rights. I'm going to work through it over the next little while in order to sort it out in my own head, so I'll extract a few posts out of it
In Sen's view, economic development is important and useful only because it allows new opportunities and freedoms to people and political and development is important in and of itself rather than a luxury to be purchased when a country is "rich enough" to afford it. So, democratic reforms are important and necessary in and of themselves - that they're generally an aid to economic development is a nice side effect. Sen is very impressed by the proposition that there has never been a famine in a democratically ruled state, because it's generally embarrassing for a government to explain to voters why people are starving to death.
The point of economic development for him is not average GNP growth: it's freeing people from starvation, early death and illness and freeing them to live lives more as they would choose.