Sunday, March 18, 2012

What would Rawls say?

Since India liberalized its economy in 1991, PPP GDP per capita has increased from about 1400 in 1992 to about 3200 in 2009 (see Penn World Tables, I am using only two significant digits because the exact numbers depend on definition).  That is 5 percent per capita per year; by any standard this is an impressive performance.  Eyes, moreover, don't lie--I have been coming to India for eight years now, and one can see living standards improving.  This is gratifying.

But in an enormously important dimension, India has not improved at all.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the share of undernourished people in India moved from 20 percent in 1992 to 19 percent in 2008; the number of hungry rose from 177 million to 224 million. 

China has done much better, having cut the rate of hunger nearly in half over the same time period (from 18 to 10 percent), despite the fact that its GINI coefficient is higher. 

  

7 comments:

Kurt Paulsen said...

Perhaps we can propose a dynamic corrolary to Rawls' static formulation of the difference principle: changes in the distribution of economic inequality are only permissible if they provide no at least a no-net-reduction in primary goods of the least well off.

I would actually prefer a much stronger version: changes in economic inequality are only permissible if they provide a positive improvement in primary goods for the least well off.

Thinking about the US: even the no-net-degradation standard would be better than what we have now.

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