Panel on Anti Democratic Development: The Merits of Democracy in Famine Protection  Fact or Fallacy  Olivier Rubin Unive

Panel on Anti Democratic Development: The Merits of Democracy in Famine Protection Fact or Fallacy Olivier Rubin Unive PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Amartya Sen has made two important famine contributions:Famine is the result of a lack of access to foodRather than relying on causal theories, famines are best understood by applying a general analytical framework, the entitlement approach, with a focus on access to food. Democracies provide

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Panel on Anti Democratic Development: The Merits of Democracy in Famine Protection Fact or Fallacy Olivier Rubin Unive

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1. Panel on Anti Democratic Development: The Merits of Democracy in Famine Protection –Fact or Fallacy? Olivier Rubin University of Copenhagen DSA conference, November 8th 2008

2. Amartya Sen has made two important famine contributions: Famine is the result of a lack of access to food Rather than relying on causal theories, famines are best understood by applying a general analytical framework, the entitlement approach, with a focus on access to food. Democracies provide protection from famine In a democracy, the government is faced with a free press, opposition parties and regular elections, which forces the government to respond to famine. What is remarkable in this anti-democracy development context is that while Sen’s entitlement approach has sparked much controversy in academic circles, his causal theory about the merits of a particular political system in reducing the risk of famine has been allowed to stand largely uncontested. This despite the fact that Sen’s entitlement approach appears to have a much more solid empirical and theoretical foundation. This despite the fact that Sen’s entitlement approach appears to have a much more solid empirical and theoretical foundation.

3. My paper sets out to examine more systematically Amartya Sen’s theory of democracy and famine. Empirically Case-studies (process tracing): Are the hypothesized political process (that pressures from a vigilant free press together with a vocal opposition compel an incumbent government to act) actually prominent in famine situations? Quantitatively (regression): Can one convincingly identify a causal correlation between the political system and famine incidents? Theoretically Which theoretical counter-arguments could be forwarded that might undermine the strength of the hypothesized democratic process?

4. Empirically During the Bihar famine 1966-67, elections together with a strained relationship between the Center and State Governments appear to have created incentives to dodge responsibility. Mistrust created incentives to pass the buck and governments suffered from electoral tunnel vision. This hampered effective famine relief in democratic Bihar. The Malawi famine 2002 shows that if a large proportion of the state budget comes from external sources over which the elected government has little control, then the de facto power lies with the external agencies – not with the elected government. The Niger government did not want to acknowledge the severity of the Niger famine 2005. The president denied that Niger was experiencing famine because ‘the people of Niger look well-fed’

5. Empirically (cont'd) Regression analyses plagued by weak proxies for famine. There is little robust evidence of a link between democracy and famine; evidence points more to the significance of (i) an African dummy as well as (ii) an income variable. The political system (having reversed the Freedom House Index) had a significant positive impact on the imports in such extreme situations; the more democratic, the higher the food imports in food scarcity situations.

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