Famine mortality, rational political inactivity, and international food aid
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.
|Date of creation:||Feb 2007|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: +44 (020) 7405 7686
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Martin Ravallion, 1997.
"Famines and Economics,"
Journal of Economic Literature,
American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1205-1242, September.
- Eric Neumayer, 2005.
"Is the Allocation of Food Aid Free from Donor Interest Bias?,"
Journal of Development Studies,
Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(3), pages 394-411.
- Eric Neumayer, 2005. "Is the allocation of food aid free from donor interest bias?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 16689, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
- Ullah, Aman, 2004. "Finite Sample Econometrics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 1, number 9780198774488, March.
- Noland, Marcus & Robinson, Sherman & Wang, Tao, 2001.
"Famine in North Korea: Causes and Cures,"
Economic Development and Cultural Change,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(4), pages 741-67, July.
- Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "Starvation and Exchange Entitlements: A General Approach and Its Application to the Great Bengal Famine," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 33-59, March.
- Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002.
"The Political Economy Of Government Responsiveness: Theory And Evidence From India,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451, November.
- Besley, Timothy J. & Burgess, Robin, 2001. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," CEPR Discussion Papers 2721, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2000. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 28, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
- Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2000. "The political economy of government responsiveness: theory and evidence from India," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2308, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
- Daniel Goodkind & Loraine West, 2001. "The North Korean Famine and Its Demographic Impact," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 27(2), pages 219-238.
- Stephen Devereux, 2001. "Sen's Entitlement Approach: Critiques and Counter-critiques," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(3), pages 245-263.
- Goldsmith, Arthur A., 2001. "Foreign Aid and Statehood in Africa," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(01), pages 123-148, December.
- Sen, Amartya, 2001. "Development as Freedom," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780192893307, March.
- Kjell Hausken & Christian W. Martin & Thomas Plümper, 2004. "Government Spending and Taxation in Democracies and Autocracies," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 239-259, 09.
- Lavy, Victor, 1992. "Alleviating Transitory Food Crises in Sub-Saharan Africa: International Altruism and Trade," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 6(1), pages 125-38, January.
- 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.
- Bowbrick, Peter, 1986. "The causes of famine : A refutation of Professor Sen's theory," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 105-124, May.
- Wei Li & Dennis Tao Yang, 2005. "The Great Leap Forward: Anatomy of a Central Planning Disaster," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 840-877, August.
- Barrett, Christopher B., 2002. "Food security and food assistance programs," Handbook of Agricultural Economics, in: B. L. Gardner & G. C. Rausser (ed.), Handbook of Agricultural Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 40, pages 2103-2190 Elsevier.
- Plumper, Thomas & Martin, Christian W, 2003. " Democracy, Government Spending, and Economic Growth: A Political-Economic Explanation of the Barro-Effect," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(1-2), pages 27-50, October.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:25169. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (LSERO Manager)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.