Is Sen wrong on famine?; Krugman 4 Tobin; US as failing state; weasel words; China ain't green; how Gordon can defend aid and pomo-babble: links I liked

Olivier Rubin questions Amartya Sen’s famous assertion that political rights avert famines ‘A financial transactions tax is an idea whose time has come.’ Paul Krugman gives his support to the new incarnation of the Tobin Tax ‘America’s governance crisis is the worst in modern history. Moreover, it is likely to worsen in the years ahead.’ Jeff Sachs gets apocalyptic on Congress v President in the world’s biggest failing state ‘“Inappropriate” and “unacceptable” are the catchwords of a moralism that dare not speak its name. They hide all measure of righteous fury behind the mask of bureaucratic neutrality. For the sake of our own humanity, we should strike them from our vocabulary.’ Edward Skidelsky in Prospect takes aim at two words I hate. Leo Horn argues that China’s fiscal stimulus has been anything but green Owen Barder shows Gordon Brown how he can keep his promises on aid And finally, ‘The characteristic theme of Sargeant’s[1] essay on the neoconstructivist paradigm of narrative is not, in fact, narrative, but subnarrative’. Let the proudly meaningless prose of the Post-Modernist Generator mess with your mind. Every click brings a new, equally random bit of Pomo-babble  [h/t Martin Walsh] ]]>

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5 Responses to “Is Sen wrong on famine?; Krugman 4 Tobin; US as failing state; weasel words; China ain't green; how Gordon can defend aid and pomo-babble: links I liked”
  1. ks

    note that Krugman’s endorsement of Tob Tax is still in terms of mitigating volatility caused by speculative transactions, not to raise funds for global public goods (recently [link back] this blog claimed that thinking of this in terms of the latter and not the former was responsible for the idea catching on).

  2. I have to confess that I have been one of those naive young researchers who are given to quoting Amartya Sen like gospel. I love his books and his ability to weave together economics, politics and philosophy. And that is why I am a bit taken by this. The political analysis Rubin makes in this paper is not complex at all – in fact, the analysis of the Indian cases are so simple and obvious, that it could well have been a local newspaper editorial or a conversation in a village tea-stall. No doubt, that is the strength of the paper and the weakness of Sen’s famine-democracy theory – that a simple political economy analysis reveals the cracks in democratic institutions and the contradictions that develop which place these institutions (including the media) at cross-purposes, where self-preservation becomes a greater priority than public welfare.
    I am not sure Sen meant it general rule, not as a watertight causal relationship. In any case though, it is a timely lesson for people like me who swear by our idols

  3. James Eliscar

    I think that it is too simple of an argument for Amartya Sen to make understanding that it is more of other factors to famine than politics. To certain extent, one can argue that political institutions can contribute — although I do not know to what extent — to famine, but we have to conceive hunger as a political weapon of control and maintenance of power structure. Otherwise, the factors contributing to famine are not political. I will not be prompt to say government policies can cause famine since that is very unlikely to happen. Giving political rights to citizenry will in no avert famines if the other factors contributing the problem are not taken into account.

  4. Vivek

    Rubin makes a valid, but *extremely* narrow argument. Is the statement “Famines don’t occur in democracies” entirely correct? No. Is it true? YES!
    Rubin demonstrates the answer to the first question, and partially evades the second question with concerns about data quality.
    A lack of results doesn’t indicate a lack of effect: data quality is an issue of concern as Rubin points out, but even with good data, a key problem is selection bias. There is no counter-factual evidence to democracies preventing famines – how do you answer the question of how well a non-democracy would have performed in exactly the same circumstances?

  5. Andrew G

    Krugman is dead on in identifying the financial servies industry as ripe for taxation. The industry is responsible for the invention of services that are bought and sold and then these instruments account for a great deal of the problems that forced the credit crisis. The nature of this industry is to grow and pass the bill onto the taxpayer by hiding behind “too big to fail.” If the cost of doing business is higher it makes it more likely these transactions will be monitored more effectively.