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Archive for May, 2010

Literature Review:

“Human Development” (HD) has become the new catchphrase in the development literature during the last quarter-century and is now the professed aim of some prominent development agencies. In the not too distant past, quantitative economic growth was the sole desideratum of developing nations, but “human development” encompasses more than mere material growth. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), arguably one of the most influential advocates of the new agenda for “quality of growth,” has defined HD as “creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests”. Sen (1998) elaborates the idea of HD by stressing the increased possibilities for people to lead freer and more fulfilling lives; it is, according to Sen, allowing individuals to “flourish as human beings”. Further, Sen and Streeten highlights that this broader view of development emphasizes opportunity improvement in the dimensions of education, health, and civil participation rather than annual flow of goods and services at market prices (Sen 1996; Streeten 2000). Advocates of HD claim that it has the added benefit of generating positive social externalities that can, in turn, help boost economic development. For example, social cohesion, strong civil participation, and more equitable distribution of income are expected to increase with HD.

Development and Human Rights both share a common goal i.e. Freedom. Development as Freedom is a popular summary of economist Amartya Sen’s work on development. In it he explores the relationship between freedom and development, the ways in which freedom is both a basic constituent of development in itself and an enabling key to other aspects. Freedom is both constitutive of development and instrumental to it: instrumental freedoms include political freedom, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency, and security, which are all different but inter-connected. whereas,  An important aspect of development policy is the relationship between economic growth, on the one hand, and democracy, human rights, and responsive governance on the other.

Essentially, democracy is nothing more than a mechanism that people have designed to rule themselves. In a small book entitled Democracy, which summarizes his substantial scholarship on the issue, the American political scientist Robert Dahl defines democratic decision-making by five criteria. First, democracy requires effective participation. Before a policy is adopted, all members must have equal and effective opportunities for making their views known to others as to what the policy should be. Second, it is based on voting equality. When the moment arrives for the final policy decision to be made, every member should have an equal and effective opportunity to vote, and all votes should be counted as equal. Third, it rests on ‘enlightened understanding’. Within reasonable limits, each member should have equal and effective opportunities for learning about alternative policies and their likely consequences. Fourth, each member should have control of the agenda, that is, members should have the exclusive opportunity to decide upon the agenda and change it. Fifth, democratic decision-making should include all adults. All (or at least most) adult permanent residents should have the full rights of citizens that are implied by the first four criteria.

The idea of political equality lies at the core of democratic decision-making. A violation of one of the above criteria leads to political inequality between people, and hence disrupts the democratic process. A democratic government is one which strives to meet as many of these criteria as possible. These criteria do not however exist in an institutional vacuum. Dahl outlines the following institutions necessary for a well-functioning democracy.

  1. Elected officials: control over government decisions about policy is constitutionally vested in elected officials.
  2. Free and fair elections: elected officials are chosen in frequent and fairly-conducted elections in which coercion is comparatively uncommon.
  3. Inclusive suffrage: practically all adults have the right to vote in the election of officials.
  4. Right to run for office: practically all adults have the right to run for elective offices in the government, though age limits may be higher for holding office than for the suffrage.
  5. Freedom of expression: citizens have a right to express themselves without the danger of severe punishment on political matters broadly defined, including criticism of officials, the government, the regime, the socio-economic order and the prevailing ideology.
  6. Alternative information: citizens have a right to seek out alternative sources of information. Moreover, alternative sources of information (should) exist that are not under the control of the government or any other single political group attempting to influence public political beliefs and attitudes, and these alternative sources are effectively protected by law.
  7. Associational autonomy: to achieve their various rights, including those listed above, citizens also have a right to form relatively independent associations or organizations, including independent political parties and interest groups.

Whereas, the political democracies influence HD, from the resources redistributive perspective, it is frequently argued that when the general population is allowed to vote, the government tends to redistribute public resources toward the consumption of the general population. That is, low-paid workers and the poor are more likely to benefit from a government that “responds.” In perhaps the most authoritative definition of democracy, Lipset (1981) defines democracy as “a political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials, and a social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by choosing among contenders for political office.” In this political system, majority rule allows the general population to exert its political influence, and consequently to enhance its social and economic welfare. The accountability of the government to the people derives from a power distribution structure that tilts favorably toward the masses.

Nevertheless, we must not identify democracy with majority rule. Democracy has complex demands, which certainly include voting and respect for election results, but it also requires the protection of liberties and freedoms, respect for legal entitlements, and the guaranteeing of free discussion and uncensored distribution of news and fair comment. Even elections can be deeply defective if they occur without the different sides getting an adequate opportunity to present their respective cases, or without the electorate enjoying the freedom to obtain news and to consider the views of the competing protagonists. (Sen, 1999)

 

Importance of Democracy from Human Dimension of Development

 

Democracy is desirable because it is ultimately better than authoritarianism and fares better on a number of issues (2000, pp60–61): it prevents cruel and megalomaniac autocrats from coming to power and harming citizens; it guarantees fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of expression that autocratic governments cannot grant; it better serves people’s interests than an autocratic government; it gives people the right to self-determination; it is better at guaranteeing peace between nations; and citizens are generally more prosperous under a democratic government than under an autocratic one. Dahl concludes that, ‘with all these advantages, democracy is, for most of us, a far better gamble than any attainable alternative to it’ (2000).

The human development and capability approach justifies the desirability of democracy as a form of government and mechanism for people to rule themselves on three fronts: first, democracy and political participation is a value in itself. As Sen (1999) puts it: ‘Political freedom is a part of human freedom in general, and exercising civil and political rights is a crucial part of good lives of individuals as social beings’. To deny people the freedom to participate in political life, either through direct or indirect forms of political participation, is a violation of their human dignity. Drèze and Sen (2002) push the argument further by affirming that this intrinsically valuable freedom does not have to rest on the fulfillment of other freedoms. For example, not being able to be adequately nourished does not entail that people should not be able to participate as political agents: ‘being able to do something through political action – for oneself and for others – is one of the elementary freedoms that people have reason to value. The popular appeal of many social movements in India confirms that this basic capability is highly valued even among people who lead very deprived lives in material terms’ (2002).

One has to note here that intrinsic value of democracy does not mean that democratic institutions will be the same everywhere and at any time. Democracy, this mechanism that allows people to rule themselves, need not be exercised in the same way across time and space. The democratic institutions that were outlined earlier are not universally identical but are always embedded into local cultures and practices. Thus, democratic rule does not necessarily have to be modelled on Western liberal democracies.

The intrinsic value of democracy, that the ability of people to take part in decisions that affect their lives is a good in itself, does not detract from its instrumental value. Democracy is good because it leads to good consequences. Because democracy is a mechanism through which people can voice their concerns in the public space – concerns, for example, about receiving adequate health care, about preserving the environment for future generations, about care of immigrants and asylum seekers, etc.

And more over, Democracies construct collective values, such as the values of tolerance and social equity, and establishing the priority of helping those in need first – but it is noteworthy that some democratically-constructed values might be negative, like racism.

 

From theory to practice, From Philosophy to Reality:

So far, we have discussed what democracy and political participation are in theory. We saw that, ideally, a democracy functions on the basis of the formal exercise of political and civic rights (freedom of expression, of association, etc.), the full political participation of people (i.e. every citizen should have a say in matters that affect his/her life), an accountable and transparent government and well-functioning electoral institutions, etc. In practice, however, these democratic ideals are never fully observed. Contrasting the practice of democracy with its ideal, Drèze and Sen (2002) observe that the actual practice of democratic ideals in a given society critically depends on a large array of factors. They cite the following: first, the practice of democracy depends on the extent of political participation, like election turnouts, the number of political parties, and the number of people who present themselves in elections. Among other factors that disrupt democratic institutions are inefficiency, corruption, incompetence of the bureaucracy and lack of motivation. Further, when people are not well-informed about different political parties and their programmes or when they do not have the educational level to understand their programmes or the policy issues that concern them, their vote may not reflect their best interests.

Nepal could be a best example to study; the country has seen the Kings (Monarchy), the Ranas (Dictators), Pancha’s (the Panchyat System), Political Leaders (Multi Party Democracy), Maoists (Revolutionaries transforming into political party) and now Mr. President, but all so far nothing have worked out. The nation is struggling hard not to be tagged as state of failure. Whilst, the next agenda is federalism. The question is why do even strong theories didn’t work in this small nation once which was viewed as zone of peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s Viewpoint:

(The author’s viewpoint is strongly focused towards those developing countries where corruption is rampant; conflict is spread all around; ever growing population is illiterate, and where the political leaders are remote controlled by foreign gods)

 

 

Why do people need to be governed? Why should do demons rule the world and why should god? Why should any opnion or ideology rule the world? Mine question is would you tolerate being governed by any king, dictator, politician, any policy, or law for each and every choices that you make in your life. What short of freedom then you have been delivered? And the next thing why should you govern anyone else? What’s the reason behind that? I have got a simple solution. The solution might be living with the self realization of responsibility towards the nation. Mine statement is very simple if everybody lives his/her life with complete honesty and with self realization of responsibility towards the nation, with self realization of responsibility towards the mother earth, I assure no policy and no government would be required in this world. However since, this simple solution is not preferable by this civilized world, I doubt this remains as a “philosophy” till all the paths are discovered and tagged useless. For now I have no other way than moving to the subject matter “Human Development and Political Freedom/Democracy”.

However moving towards the subject matter is not an easy job. First I am really confused about the term “Development”. What is development? I really don’t have any answer and the confusion gets worse when the “Human” is added to the word “development”. Thus, while coming to Human Development my mind becomes completely blank. It’s not that the subject matter is complex to define rather it is useless to talk in the world where means have become ends and ends have become just the means. The crazy world which I define as slaves of Central Bauru of statics can never go beyond stats and data. First the social researchers, authors, scientists, professors and professionals must become conscious that everything can’t be measured, secondly when human is placed in center then Maslow’s pyramid of needs and wants should be placed in the center of human development debate because human development describes human development as widening of human choices and we all know that choices are related with human needs and wants. But think again, do widening of human choices is the solution?

Whereas, moving towards the term “development”; what I define development as any ongoing activity that moves the global society towards global unity, global harmony, and brings individual human being more closer to complete freedom. (It might be freedom from bondage, freedom from slavery, freedom from hunger, freedom from polluted environment, freedom from poverty, freedom from diseases and freedom from suffering). Here what we need is integrated approach that brings human being more closer to complete freedom. So while we talk about integrated approach, again the Maslow’s pyramid can be a good reference to start from. However you must be wondering about indexes and measurement units? Again the solution lies in honesty, ethics and moral values. The more ethics and moral values people of a nation have and the more they are honesty, the less indexes and measurement units the country have and vice versa. We must recognize that everything can’t be measured, and everything can’t be assigned a monetary value. Freedom and joy can’t be measured and neither we should try. It would be just a crazy and mad act to do so. I call it crime against humanity. We must learn to differentiate between materialistic and non-materialistic things. We must understand different aspects of human being and the meaning & glory of life. If such philosophical things are understood then means and ends should be probably easy to diagnosis.

Had been their only few thousands of population on the planet we wouldn’t have felt the need for any government. Since there is population pressure on resources, a mechanism is needed for meeting the ends of development i.e. the complete freedom. While coming to the point, “human development and political freedom”; democratic government would be right form of the government with few conditioned applied. The conditions are, leaders must have self realization, they must be Master of Their Own and the must be ever true to their spirit. I emphasis on democracy because core center part of democracy is the freedom, the ultimate goal of human being. The next condition could be – “Media” must have a censor board; the third condition could be – Education (along with Curriculums, syllabus) and Education System should be redesigned and redeveloped, and updated frequently; the fourth condition could be – guarantee of pollution free environment for living and the final condition could be – Understanding of the core concept of meta-modern era among the professionals in all of the government bodies.

Finally by stating democracy and democratic government, I strictly mean that the government should not rule over people, rather the system should help people help themselves attain their ultimate goal;  the leader should accept their responsibility to achieve global harmony. And the most, with Honesty, self realization of responsibility and consciousness towards the meaning of life on the planet the leaders should work under their full capacity so that people enjoy the glory of life.

 

(Note: personally I don’t support any form of government, but since the present context has a very typical demand, democracy would be beneficial to extent with the conditions applied)

 

References:

  1. http://www.idrc.ca/ (The International Development Research Center, Science for Humanity) (browsed on 25/05/2010)
  1. http://findarticles.com/ (browsed on 25/05/2010)
  2. http://hdr.undp.org/en/humandev/  (Human Development Reports) (browsed on 26/05/2010)
  3. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/frontmatter/135934.htm (as browsed on 26/05/2010)
  4. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Democracy/On_Democracy_Dahl.html (excerpts from the book “On Democracy” by Robert A. Dahl, Yale University Press 1998)

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