Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Sen-Bhagwati debate - a refreshing change!

Prof. Amartya Sen
The past few weeks have seen headlines announcing a shrill debate between the Sen and Bhagwati camps of economic growth theory. The pace at which the rancour has grown is paralleled only by the one being witnessed in the Modi-Rahul debate. And that's saying a lot!

So what's the big noise all about? Let's get to the basics to understand the debate.

Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati
Amartya Sen (80) and Jagadish Bhagwati (79) are two of the most renowned Indian-origin names in the field of economics. While Mr Sen has contributed immensely to the field of welfare economics and has even been a big force in the design of the UNDP's Human Development Index (HDI) under the leadership of Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, Mr Bhagwati has been a leading global light that's come from the subcontinent. As an American economist and professor of economics and law at Columbia University, he's well known for his research in international trade and for his advocacy of free trade. Amartya Sen, in 1999, was awarded the 'Bharat Ratna' India's highest civilian award, and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998. Bhagwati, meanwhile, earned the Mahalanobis Medal (1974) and the Padma Vibhushan (2000).

Their vigorous debate can essentially be reduced to this : what comes first - chicken or egg?