Development Theory

For this week’s readings, the term development was thoroughly analyzed. Historically, societies have looked at development as an economic term that translates to urban high rises, higher incomes, etc. Instead of considering “development” as an economic term, the authors associate it with freedoms. They describe development as the process of expanding individual freedoms or the real freedoms people can enjoy. This can be more access to healthy food, good education, water, internet, etc. These increased individuals freedoms are supposed to help improve the quality and, above all, the happiness of individuals in a country.

This new perspective of looking at development is very different compared to the way current governments see the term. When governments look at their economy, they look at economical metrics like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), income per capita, wealth, etc. Freedoms are not associated with measuring the current or potential state of a country’s economy. In their view, economies are already free and liberal to an extent because they allow individuals to make something out of themselves if they really wanted to. The readings show great examples that show that numbers do not capture the whole situation. For example, you can be technically richer in the U.S., but be in a worse living situation than someone in a poorer country. Other examples relating to African American completely astonished me. The fact that African Americans have lower survival rates than the average Chinese civilian is depressing and shows inequalities in the U.S. Relating development with freedoms gives a more holistic view because it shows the capabilities and advantages that people have.

People would assume that living in a very rich country like the United States would benefit people and be an advantage, but for the African American, it is not. As an immigrant, I have always thought that living in America is a privilege and that people of color are better off here. All these graphs show that I’m wrong.

Other sections of the reading discuss how institutions play a critical role in helping achieve more individual freedoms and happiness. Institutions that can make it better for individuals in society are public schools, better courts, etc. They are not described as tools that make it easier in a society, but as tools that give accessibilities to individuals so they can be stable and happy. Public schools and public health insurance do not have to be used for economic development that countries have always longed for, but for human development. If countries start putting individuals first and focus on human development, then the rest will follow. My question is though, how can governments focus on human development without first achieving economic development?