Famine, the Unnecessary Evil

Source: New York Times

Author:  Johann Hari 

Book Review of  THREE FAMINES: Starvation and Politics by Thomas Keneally

Eradicating famine from the human condition is one of the most noble goals we can have. But to do this, we need to understand how famine happens — and in the past few decades, this has gone through a revolution, which Keneally’s important new book helps explain.

As recently as the mid-1980s, it was thought that famine was usually an “act of God” — a “biblical” failure of rains or crops or seasons. But in the 1990s ­Amartya Sen, the Nobel-­winning economist, showed this was wrong by proving one bold fact: “No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.” Famine, it turns out, is not caused by a failure to produce food. It is caused by a failure to distribute food correctly — because the ruler is not accountable to the starving.

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