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1-Page Summary of Development As Freedom

The Parable

Tupac needs to hire someone to clean his pool. There are three people nearby who want a job, but they can only do one of the jobs that Tupac has available. The first person is Jake, who’s in the worst situation; Bertrand just became poor and isn’t handling it well; and Lakrisha has a bad limp from an injury she got during a mugging. Tupac wants to help out all three people since he can only give them one job each, so he thinks about which of them would make him feel better if he gave them this opportunity: Jake because he’s in such bad shape or Bertrand because being depressed makes him feel worse than anyone else does or Lakrisha for her medical care?

Tupac is a CEO who has to decide which of his employees should be promoted. Jake, Bertrand and Lakrisha are his top three candidates, but he’s conflicted because each candidate presents different problems for him. If Tupac knew only that Jake was poor, he would hire him. However, if he knew only that Bertrand was miserable at work (as opposed to happy), then he would hire Bertrand instead because misery motivates people more than happiness does. If Tupac knew only that Lakrisha wanted the promotion so she could get away from her abusive boyfriend, then he would give it to her as well since getting away from her abuser will improve her quality of life. He chooses Lakrisha in the end because she has a better chance of being successful in the position than either Jake or Bertrand do; however, this decision isn’t easy for him since there are many factors involved besides just money and happiness.

The following is a small world and Tupac represents those institutions which decide how to allocate resources. Should we build a bridge to reach the opium poppy field or burn down the opium poppies so that people can’t have access to drugs? If we don’t, will their children go hungry because the parents aren’t making any money from drug trafficking? And if they do earn money from drug trafficking, then what happens when their kids grow up and make more money off of it too?

Freedom as a Foundation of Justice

In this story, the economic scientists are discussing how to value information and individual freedoms. They’re trying to figure out if they can measure them completely. This is a simplified version of what they talk about in real life. The different theories of justice that they discuss include utilitarianism, libertarianism, and Rawlsian thought (see below). Freedom can be defined as an individual’s capability to do things that are valuable for himself or herself. But these ideas aren’t easy to study because information is often incomplete.

Utilitarianism is a theory that evaluates the value of an action by its consequences. Jeremy Bentham, who created utilitarianism in 18th century England, defined happiness as pleasure and satisfaction. He believed that if people were happy or satisfied with something—an idea or policy—then it was good. But he didn’t think we needed to know who these people are in order to understand whether something is right or wrong; all we need to do is find out how many people like this thing, and then we can determine if it’s good for everyone else. In contemporary times, philosophers define utility as our choices being fulfilled by what we want from life. They believe that when you act on your desires and make decisions based on those choices, you’re making yourself happy. However, they also argue that since humans have free will, they don’t always choose what makes them happy ; sometimes they choose things because they feel obligated to someone else or because of other reasons altogether. Therefore, according to this philosophy, there are no moral obligations except for those imposed upon us by society (like laws).

Development As Freedom Book Summary, by Amartya Sen