causes of poverty, democracy, equality, horror, trade

The Causes of Poverty (18): Amartya Sen, Famines, and Democracy

(source, photo by Mary Lee/Harvard News Office) Famines are easy to prevent if there is a serious effort to do so, and a democratic government, facing elections and criticisms from opposition parties and independent newspapers, cannot help but make such an effort. Not surprisingly, while India continued to have famines under British rule right up […]

philosophy, why do we need human rights

Why Do We Need Human Rights? (43): Positionality and Transpositionality

(source) Human beings are inescapably positional. We understand the world from the position in which we are. In the words of Amartya Sen, what we observe and how we observe it depends on our position vis-à-vis the object we observe. ”Object” can also be person, an idea etc., and “position” can mean your physical location […]

economics, measuring poverty, poverty, statistics

Measuring Poverty (16): The Capabilities Approach and the Unstraightening of the Poverty Line

(source) We usually define poverty as a level of income or financial assets below a certain “poverty line”. This poverty line is set, often implicitly, at a level that is supposed to make the difference between decent survival and a life unworthy of human beings. The line is typically a single line, identical across all individuals […]


Top 20 Most-Read Posts of 2011

Title Views Statistics on Capital Punishment 38,124 The Causes of Poverty (3): Overview 28,673 Segregation, A Collection of Images 27,091 Statistics on Discrimination of Homosexuals 26,137 Statistics on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Correlations 25,242 Human Rights Quote (48): Aids Disaster 22,808 Statistics on Child Labor 20,832 Statistics on Discrimination of Women 17,862 Statistics on Prison […]

causes of poverty, economics, poverty

The Causes of Poverty (48): Overpopulation

(source) It looks like we’re about to have another large famine, and so – right on cue – we’re hearing the familiar chorus of overpopulation. Equally predictable, I promised myself that this will be the last time that I drag my feet towards yet another rebuke of the Malthusians whose visions of the human flood […]

democracy, economics, equality, justice, philosophy, poverty, what is equality

What is Equality? (2): Or, Equality of What?

As I mentioned before, when people talk about equality they mean equality of something very specific. The problem is, they hardly ever agree on the specifics. So it’s not uncommon to see two people talking about equality and actually talking about something completely different. And even when they’re talking about the same specific type of […]

compatibility of freedom and equality, education, freedom, freedom and equality, law, philosophy, poverty, what is freedom

The Compatibility of Freedom and Equality (11): Freedom as Capability

Freedom as independence or the absence of interference (especially government interference) is an important concept but it doesn’t cover all useful meanings of the word. Freedom is more than just the (relatively) unhindered ability to do as you like; it’s also the availability of significant and wide ranging choices and of the capabilities to do […]

causes of poverty, economics, poverty

The Causes of Poverty (31): Overpopulation and Food Shortages

I’ve made my views on overpopulation abundantly clear on this blog. In short: I think it’s a silly and simplistic explanation of the world’s problems, hysterical at best and damaging when it inspires public policy. I don’t deny that it can cause problems when we look at local areas: there can be too many people in a […]

equality, justice, moral dilemmas, philosophy, poverty, work

Moral Dilemma (5): What Does Justice Require?

(source) This dilemma – part of this series – comes from Amartya Sen. Three children, Anne, Bob and Carla, are arguing who should receive a flute. The arguments they give for getting the flute are not selfish, partial or arbitrary, but based on different theories of justice. Of course, since they are children, they don’t […]

compatibility of freedom and equality, education, equality, freedom, freedom and equality, health, poverty

The Compatibility of Freedom and Equality (8): Liberty = Freedom From the State + Freedom From Social Pressure + Equality of Opportunity

(source, click to enlarge) Libertarians traditionally adopt a negative kind of freedom, and, more precisely, limited negative freedom: they believe that individuals should be free from interference by the government. They seldom accept that individuals can be coerced by private and social constructs, such as tradition, the family, gender roles, cultural racism etc. Here’s a rather long but exceptionally […]


Statistics on Hunger

Content 1. Definition of hunger 2. Numbers of people suffering from hunger 3. Evolution of the numbers 4. Geographical breakdown and hunger maps 5. Children suffering from hunger 6. Calorie intake levels 7. Causes of hunger 8. Consequences of hunger 9. Food security and food spending 10. Famine 1. Definition of hunger The word “hunger” […]


Statistics on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Correlations

Introduction On this page, we’ll have a look at the level and the growth rate of countries’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – or, better, their GDP per capita in order to compare like with like and to correct for increases or decreases in GDP that are caused by changes in the population numbers (which in turn may be caused by migration, fertility […]

economic human rights, poverty

Economic Human Rights (10): Famine

Here are some of the worst famines in the 20th century. In China between 1958 and 1962, an estimated 10 to 30 million people died as a result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward. The government was unaware of the problems and continued to export food and cut imports several years into the famine. Farmers were […]

causes of poverty, governance, poverty

The Causes of Poverty (4): Governance

No substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent and democratic country with a relatively free press. Amartya Sen If there are no free flows of information, no accountable government that needs to justify its actions in order to be re-elected, and no free press, then you are likely to have more corruption, more embezzlement […]

culture, what are human rights

What Are Human Rights? (10): Dependent on Prerequisites

(source) People often oppose the universal application of democracy and human rights because they believe that in some places, some of the prerequisites are absent. Their point of view is not that democracy and human rights are in themselves objectionable or undesirable, but that some countries are not mature enough yet (as in the case […]


Causes of Poverty

Most of the different daily posts that appear on this blog are organized into so-called “blog series”. For example, there’s a series called causes of poverty: if we want to reduce the number of poor people we have to know what makes them poor in the first place. (subscribe to the RSS feed for this […]