I have written a book review

Posted: 3 years ago
One
of my favorite books of all time is Development as Freedom by the Nobel
Laureate Amartya Sen. In the book, Amartya Sen goes on to exploring the
relationship between Development and Freedom. According to him, freedom is the
most important ingredient in development. It is about the expansion of human
choices, thus, giving them freedom to choose what they want. The most
intriguing thing about this book is that it doesn’t require knowledge of
economics as a prerequisite to reading it. There are no mathematical formulas
or regression models in the book. It just uses some historical events for analysis;
however, most of its examples are from recent events making it accessible by
all.

 


The
book expands the focus of economics from mere money, wealth and income to broader
ideas of mental satisfaction. He focuses on a capability approach as
substantive human freedoms. He argues that freedom should not just be seen as
purchasing power but also processes and opportunities. He acknowledged the
various components of freedoms. He talks about freedom as something that is
instrumental as well as constitutive to development. He classified instrumental
freedom as economic facilities, political freedom, social opportunities,
security etc. These are different but are evidently inter-connected to each
other. Sen goes on to discuss this in the context of both India & China on
the parameters of basic health facilities, education and mortality reduction as
driving factors for economic growth.

 


Sen
does not want to devoid his readers of a theoretical background so he explores
the various aspects of his ideas through utilitarian, Rawlsian as well as the
libertarian lens. He argues that the focus should be on the capabilities of
people to become what they want and do what they like. He never says that this
may answer all the questions but says that even answering a few questions will
fulfill a great purpose. The best thing about the book is that it discusses the
theories and concepts by applying it to real and specific issues. Sen goes on
to say that a deprivation based on capability can help us measure and
understand poverty in a better way as compared to low income. Some of the most
interesting examples include the comparison between the healthcare system in
the United States and Europe as well as comparisons of literacy, gender
inequality and infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and Europe. In the book,
Sen also discusses the role of markets and its relationship with the state. The
efficiency and the ability of markets to provide for people also play an
important role in development. He points that a capability-directed approach
can help in lessening the distortion and discrepancy in the market. He also
emphasizes on democracy as the most important element that plays an
instrumental role by giving a chance to people to participate in the political
process. This also enables people to play a role in shaping the norms and
values of their country. Therefore, not just formal political rules but also
channels for people to participate in the political process can contribute
towards an expansion of freedom.

 


Overall,
the book can serve as a bible to all development economists. Something that
makes this book step aside from the conventional books on economics is its
focus on other factors like political freedom, human capital and capabilities
along with income and wealth.

 

The
book highlights some very interesting points that have been ignored by many
economists worldwide. Some of the key learnings from the book can be
highlighted through the following eight points:


 


  1. Expansion of
    human freedom plays a very important role in bringing about development

  2. Human
    freedom can be brought about by an expansion of human capabilities

  3. Freedom is
    instrumental to development

  4. Involvement
    of people in political processes also plays an important role in expanding
    human freedom

  5. Famines
    occur due to lack of purchasing power and not food shortage

  6. An increase
    in human capital can lead to bringing about development

  7. Increase in
    capabilities can also be ensured by focusing on women literacy and
    employment

  8. A change
    through participation and involvement works better in the long run as
    compared to coercion. A comparison between population growths of China
    & Kerala is the best example highlighting this.











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