Ethics and Development Term Paper

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Ethics and Morality -- Ethics and Development

The problem of "development" (or, perhaps "progress" and "advancement" also fits in this context) is that while many millions of citizens of the world have been blessed by dramatic progress (technological, industrial, and communications) over the past few decades, many millions are being left behind. Indeed, while millions are living better, living more comfortable lives, countless millions are not benefiting in the least from this social and economic development. In fact, the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" is said to be widening, and this is a cause for great concern.

Millions of African children are AIDS and HIV victims, simply because they were born to mothers who suffered from AIDS and HIV; millions of other African people are suffering malnutrition, starvation, and live in hopelessness and dread. Millions of people in Third World countries do not have clean reliable drinking water or proper medical care and also lack good quality nutritional resources.

There are many ways to approach these issues, and many points-of-view along the way to trying to understand and analyze these issues; this paper will delve into the thoughts and factual data presented by respected authors and writers, and also will present the views of critics who critique those same writers; indeed, the analysis of high-caliber authors who critique the work of other authors -- from the same genre as the critic -- is very instructive for the person wishing to gain wisdom and perspective from august material.

To wit: when a person wishes to attempt to become well-informed with reference to the issues that have been outlined in this introduction, and the key problems facing the human race, studying the writings of respected researchers and authors is a good beginning.

Amartya Sen

In his book, Development as Freedom, according to a critique of his book in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics

, "Development is viewed as a process of expanding different kinds of freedom -- freedoms involved in political, social, and economic processes" (Biswas, 2002). Biswas writes that a report (the 1999 Human Development Report) indicates that nearly one billion "cannot meet their basic consumption requirements" and that "850 million adults are illiterate."

Biswas, in introducing his own critique of Sen's work, also points out that 260 million children who should be in primary and secondary grades, are not in school -- there is either no school, or it is too far away for them to attend. "How can we progress toward building a society with less deprivation?" he asks. How can the "haves" build a society "where people will have better opportunities to 'lead the kind of lives they have reason to value'," he adds, with a quote from Sen's book tucked into his question.

A few of the things Biswas paraphrases -- in terms of freedoms all peoples should enjoy -- from Sen's book, include: freedom from hunger, malnutrition and poverty; freedom from diseases which are treatable; and freedom from being illiterate (put another way -- the absolute "right" as a citizen of the world to be able to read, in order to advance one's knowledge of the world present, past, and future, if there is to be a future for the humble among us).

When Sen speaks of political freedom, he is writing about the opportunity to be a participant in the formation and constitution of governments. And in order to expand these freedoms listed above, it is widely believed in economic circles that the growth of "income per capita" is the most, or nearly the most, crucial element in the mix. That idea is not necessarily true, according to Sen's take on development.

The growth of income per capita is not the most dominant indicator of development, Sen contends, since, in Biswas' words, "such nonmaterial benefits as the freedom to live long, the ability to escape avoidable morbidity or to participate in political decisions and social choice" are not among those elements reflected in per capita income. Money alone, Sen clearly believes, is not intrinsically connected to freedom.

Sen believes that political freedom and the chance for open and free discussion about all issues will ultimately bring about social change and better economic futures for people.

It's interesting that when Sen began what eventually became his well-received book (Development as Freedom), he was actually preparing a series of discussion papers for the World Bank, according to an article in Social Analysis

by Andrew Davidson. In his book, Sen "quickly departs from long-standing economic thought, taking issue with development fetishism and its focus on economic growth ... " (Davidson, 2002).

In presenting his ideas, Sen hits home by challenging the issue of just what constitutes "the good life"; and, Davidson writes, Sen is justified in wondering "whether development is 'expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy'," and is right in challenging the old notion that social and political rights will naturally follow economic prosperity. "To the contrary," Davidson continues, "Sen argues that both social and political freedom are in fact conducive to economic growth," and the book Sen has written provides "an expansive reflection on the relationship between development and globalization."

Over and over Sen "provides a unique blend of classical economic thought with moral philosophy," Davidson explains. And in Sen's view, he does not discount the value of approaching the future with an eye towards globalization; but he believes that "market freedoms by themselves are insufficient to the task at hand."

Meanwhile, why are market freedoms -- which are heralded by numerous Western leaders as signs of emerging democracy in places like China and Vietnam -- not sufficient to bring meaningful change? Why does Sen call market solutions (in Davidson's words) "the new superstition of absolute faith"?

Because "individuals are not free if they suffer hunger, illiteracy, homelessness, or illness," Davidson continues, paraphrasing Sen's book. This view of Sen's that market solutions, or money per se, cannot encourage freedom, "may be news to those bunkered within the World Bank," but as a respected economist, and Nobel prize winner, Sen's voice will be, and has been, heard.

Another key point that Sen makes, and Biswas elaborates on, is that longevity is likely more tied to "public expenditures on health care and more equal distribution of income" than it is on per capita, per se. And the well-being of people in south Korea, Sen explains, is not that much different from the well-being of people in India, albeit India experienced only a 1.4% income growth between 1960-1980, and South Korea enjoyed a 7% growth in economic terms over the same period.

And so, incomes double for Indians every 50 years, but Koreans' incomes double every ten years, is a factual statement. But to say, "an Indian will, on average, be twice as well as his grandfather; a Korean 32 times" as well as his grandfather, Biswas continues, pointing out Sen's very understandable and reasonable economic logic, is to "presume a strong positive correlation between the growth of income per capita and the consequent increase in well-being."

William Greider

Looking at the United States -- and not, as Sen does, at the global picture -- there are plenty of important and challenging issues facing the "greatest country on earth," as many patriots call the U.S.

And meanwhile, if one-fifth of American's children are living in poverty -- as William Greider asserts in his book -- then clearly Americans have no right to beat on their collective chests and spread the word all around the world as to what a great, fair, rich, just nation we are. And what's worst, as Greider points out (p. 17), is that while the " ... mass consumption society constructed during the twentieth century was an egalitarian triumph in the sense that nearly all were enabled to participate"

-- now, the "future of mass consumption is ... paradoxically, threatened by the growing inequalities of wealth and incomes."

And, how did working families manage to survive over the past three decades; how did they feed their kids, make the mortgage / rent and the car payment, and health care costs, while "hourly wages stagnated in real terms" (18) and home equity drew down in the last twenty years from 70% to 51% of mortgage value? They were dramatically squeezed in their ability to keep "up with the Jones," so to speak, and they "worked harder and longer," Greider explains. More and more women, wives and mothers entered the full-time workforce to keep families afloat. Moreover, they "borrowed against their savings, with credit cards and lines of bank credit that steadily drew down the accumulated equity they owned in their homes."

And while this was occurring, the retirement savings of millions of families was "destroyed," Greider writes (19) when a "horrendous disintegration of stock prices" caused the loss of between $6 and $8 trillion in capital. These things being said, Greider wonders (21) "what future" there can be "genuine democracy" if "ever greater concentrations of wealth and power are the inescapable result of our…

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