Final Examination Review Notes
What are the causes of famine in the contemporary era?
The Scott article
According to Scott, there are two fundamental causes of persisting poverty.
The first is the exclusion of the things produced by the least-developed countries, namely agricultural
products and low-end manufactured goods like textiles, from the world trade agreement.
The US, the
European countries and Japan have all joined together to impose quotas on textile imports, while the
European countries and Japan are responsible for the twenty-year stalemate that has continued to
exclude agricultural products from the world trading system, as we discussed at the end of the last
lecture. The second cause is also familiar territory, the bad CPI scores of most of the least developed
countries and their consequent inability to attract foreign direct investment.
The Sen chapter
Sen is a winner of the Nobel prize in economics
This article is a chapter from his
and it basically sheds a
new light on the point I’ve been making about bad government
and the inability of the non-trading low-end countries to keep up with the rate of economic growth of
the rest of the world, or to put it the other way round to fall further and further behind the rest of the
I’ve been making the point that bad governments—corrupt, no rule of law, no budget discipline
and so forth—tend to be unattractive to FDI.
In other words, I approach the problem from the outside
point of view:
what are the effects of bad government on a country’s attractiveness to potential outside
The Sen chapter approaches the question from the internal point of view:
what are some of
the effects of bad government on the internal development of the country?
Why does poverty persist?
Sen is concerned with the persistence of poverty, and particularly
of the most extreme form of poverty, the inability of people to keep themselves alive, to grow enough
food or to earn enough money to feed themselves or their families.
There have been examples of this
You must keep in mind that famine—widespread death by starvation—was one of
the hallmarks of the traditional world, or in other words of all of human history up to the last few
decades, but in the era of globalization there’s a growing expectation, which I share, that famine should
be going extinct.
To give you an example:
about four years ago, there was a famine in Niger.
was a locust plague, the crops were devoured and people died of hunger.
This is the traditional world
if the rains fail or there’s a crop disease or insect swarm, the food supply is destroyed and
people die of hunger.
What was remarkable about this was not that it happened—as I say, it’s been
happening since forever—but why it continues to happen in the 21
century, with food production
growing faster than population and the ability to transport large quantities of food from one continent to