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Development as Freedom

Image result for microcredit vs microfinance

I've written of Amartya Sen in recent days. I think I'll return to that well today, drawing on his 1999 book, Development as Freedom. I will do so without rushing in to agree or disagree with particular points, though I'm afraid I will comment along the way on Sen's prose style.

Freedom has two distinct roles in the life of a developing nation, the constitutive role and the instrumental role. In the words of Amartya Sen, freedom is both a constituent in the good life and an instrument kn economic progress.

Freedom, especially in its instrumental role, includes for Sen "the opportunities that individuals respectively enjoy to utilize economic resources for the purpose of consumption, or production, or exchange."

His prose style here is clunky and academic. The use of "utilize" where the word "use" would work is an example. But I'm picking up what he's laying down.

A little later, "The availability and access to finance can be a crucial influence on the economic entitlements that economic agents are practically able to secure." This means, if you're able to borrow money, you're in a position to do something with it. Or you're not, you aren't. Again, clunky but valid. He specifically links this to micro-credit, very small scale loans below the radar of conventional banking.

Sen includes "transparency guarantees" as among the freedoms with instrumental value for development. This he derives from one's need to trust the people around one's self. When trust is seriously violated, as by corruption in business or politics, the lives of many people can be severely constrained. Transparency, openness, makes  trust more trustworthy, makes its violation riskier, which is a good thing.

Less abstractly, Sen discusses Malthusian theory and population issues. He reports on a sharp fertility decline in Bangladesh linked to "the family planning movement and in particular to the greater availability of knowledge and facilities." That country "has been able to cut its fertility rate  from 6.1 to 3.4 in a mere decade and a half."


  1. I enjoyed reading.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.


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