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Famine mortality, rational political inactivity, and international food aid

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  • Plümper, Thomas
  • Neumayer, Eric

Abstract

Famine mortality is preventable by government action and yet some famines kill. Amartya Sen has famously stated that no famine with significant excess mortality has ever occurred in a democracy. Yet, critics have argued that some countries have experienced famine mortality despite democratic governance and that Sen’s hypothesis cannot account for the conditions under which even autocracies may prevent famine mortality. We develop a political theory of famine mortality, which suggests that it can be entirely politically rational for a political support maximizing government, democratic or not, to remain inactive in the face of severe famine threat. Differences in famine mortality are due to differences in the policies democracies and autocracies adopt in responding to this political trade-off. Autocracies are more likely to compensate only affected elite members by targeted transfers, leaving other affected individuals outside the elite vulnerable to the potentially mortal impact of famine. Democracies, however, need to employ policies with quasi-public good characteristics due to the larger number of affected individuals with political influence. We derive the testable hypotheses that famine mortality is possible in democracies, but likely to be lower than in autocracies. Moreover, a larger share of people being affected by famine relative to population size together with large quantities of international food aid being available will lower mortality in both regime types, but more so in democracies. Our hypotheses find empirical support in a cross-country time-series analysis of famine mortality in non-developed countries over the period 1972 to 2000.

Suggested Citation

  • Plümper, Thomas & Neumayer, Eric, 2007. "Famine mortality, rational political inactivity, and international food aid," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 25169, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:25169
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Eric Neumayer, 2003. "Do Human Rights Matter in Bilateral Aid Allocation? A Quantitative Analysis of 21 Donor Countries," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 84(3), pages 650-666.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pasquale Tridico & Francesco Burchi, 2010. "Institutions, Famine and Inequality," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0121, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
    2. Stephen M. Miller & Kyriakos C. Neanidis, 2012. "Demographic Transition and Economic Welfare: The Role of Humanitarian Aid," Working papers 2012-06, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    3. Miller, Stephen M. & Neanidis, Kyriakos C., 2015. "Demographic transition and economic welfare: The role of in-cash and in-kind transfers," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 84-92.
    4. Keefer, Philip & Neumayer, Eric & Plümper, Thomas, 2011. "Earthquake Propensity and the Politics of Mortality Prevention," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 1530-1541, September.
    5. Francken, Nathalie & Minten, Bart & Swinnen, Johan F.M., 2012. "The Political Economy of Relief Aid Allocation: Evidence from Madagascar," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 486-500.
    6. Eduardo Cavallo & Ilan Noy, 2009. "The Economics of Natural Disasters: A Survey," Research Department Publications 4649, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    7. Genesis T. Yengoh & Frederick Ato Armah & Edward Ebo Onumah, 2010. "Paths to Attaining Food Security: The Case of Cameroon," Challenges, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 1(1), pages 1-22, August.
    8. Daoud, Adel & Halleröd, Björn & Guha Sapir, Debarati, 2015. "Quality of government and the relationship between natural disasters and child poverty: A comparative analysis," MPIfG Discussion Paper 15/5, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    9. Eduardo Cavallo & Ilan Noy, 2010. "The Aftermath of Natural Disasters: Beyond Destruction," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 11(2), pages 25-35, July.
    10. André Schultz & Alexander Libman, 2015. "Is there a local knowledge advantage in federations? Evidence from a natural experiment," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 162(1), pages 25-42, January.
    11. Hoddinott, John & Margolies, Amy, 2012. "Mapping the Impacts of Food Aid: Current Knowledge and Future Directions," WIDER Working Paper Series 034, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    12. Fuchs, Andreas & Klann, Nils-Hendrik, 2013. "Emergency Aid 2.0," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79898, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    13. Vanhaute, Eric, 2009. "From famine to food crisis. What history can teach us about local and global subsistence crises," MPRA Paper 17630, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. repec:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:144-155 is not listed on IDEAS

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