Democracy, Dictatorship, and Disaster

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Critically evaluate Amartya Sen's assertion that "no functioning democracy has ever suffered a famine". Are democracies systematically more likely than dictatorships to avoid large-scale evils such as famine? Do democracies respond systematically better than dictatorships to natural disasters?

Instructions

  1. Critically evaluate Amartya Sen's assertion that "no functioning democracy has ever suffered a famine". Are democracies systematically more likely than dictatorships to avoid large-scale evils such as famine? Note that the key word is systematically; some dictatorships may escape famine and other disasters, but they may still be systematically worse than democracies, though if there are some types of dictatorship that systematically avoid disaster that in itself is an interesting fact that you should consider.
  2. Be clear about your use of "democracy" and "dictatorship."
  3. Whatever conclusion you come to, you need to try to figure out why: why are democracies (or dictatorships) more likely to avoid disaster?
  4. You need to try deal with confounding factors. For example, it may be that most democracies are wealthy, and wealth helps prevent large-scale disaster, leading to a coincidental association of democracy with the avoidance of large-scale disaster.
  5. You can find here a partial (and unverified) list of famines in the twentieth century. (Note that the list makes no distinction between large and small episodes of "famine"). Were any of these countries democracies? By which measure? Were the famines large or small?
  6. Charts, graphs, and other visual aids are useful - this is a wiki!

Resources

  1. The bibliography has a number of articles that may help (tagged natural disasters and famine); note that the list is not exhaustive.


Start writing here - do not delete the instructions. Note you can use headers to organize your answer, and do not be afraid to edit other people's writing. This is a wiki! Also, you can use the Discussion page to hash out disagreements.