The Economic Contributions Of Nobel Prize Winner, Amartya K. Sen.

2788 words - 11 pages

Sen and SensibilityA Look at the Welfare Economics of Amartya SenWhatever we understand and enjoy in human products instantly becomes ours. Wherever they might have their origin; Let me feel with unalloyed gladness that all the great glories of man are mine. Rabindranath TagoreThis paper offers a brief history of Nobel prize winning economist Amartya K. Sen and his work; reviews some of the groundbreaking work in the area of welfare economics that inspired Sen; and provides a brief analysis of the issues discussed.IntroductionEconomist Amartya K. Sen of India received the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics for his contributions to welfare economics. Born in 1933, Sen studied in Calcutta and Cambridge (where he received his PhD) and has held teaching positions at Oxford, London, Delhi, Calcutta, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, and Cambridge. He holds honorary doctorates from more than 25 schools and universities. Sen became the first non-American president of the American Economic Association and the first non-British master of Trinity College, Cambridge.In his youth Sen witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, which killed 2-3 million people, and the race riots of the 1940s. This led him to conclude "economic unfreedom, in the form of extreme poverty, can make a person a helpless prey in the violation of other kinds of freedom." It was because of these conditions in India that Sen pursued a career in economics.Ethics and EconomicsIn his book, On Ethics and Economics, Sen points out the unrealistic stance of modern economics in its attempt to separate economics from ethics. His objection is two-fold. First that economics is a social science that attempts to account for real people. Given this, Sen argues that "it is hard to believe that real people could be completely unaffected by the reach of the self-examination induced by the Socratic question, How should one live?" His second objection is that the ends of economics are fundamentally ethical, and deeper than wealth, as Aristotle wrote, "The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else." Sen points out the well-known fact that Adam Smith was a professor of Moral Philosophy, and argues, as do many others, that it is not possible to extract from economics anything purely objective. He argues that the field of economics has been damaged by the fruitless classification of normative and positive economics.The Sen IndexSen's most prominent contribution to welfare economics is his approach to the issue of measuring welfare. Sen developed what is called the Sen Index, more commonly known as the Human Development Index (HDI) . The HDI is the standard currently used by the United Nations in measuring a nation's welfare. The HDI includes measurements of GDP, access to health care, access to education, literacy, infant mortality rates, and life expectancy. Prior to this index, welfare was...

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