Angus Deaton in Conversation with Amartya Sen, “Economics with a Moral Compass?”


Okay, so we’re gonna get the show rolling.
Thank you all for coming out on a Saturday afternoon. I know today’s event
is going to be historic. I can just imagine in the future I was
having a conversation many years down the line, when people are trying to find
out the state of development economics, what us, we today were thinking, I’m sure
all the videos will have all of that recorded. My name is Yaw Nyarko. I’m a
professor of economics here at New York University and with my colleagues Rajeev
Dehejia and Bill Easterly, we run the Development Research Institute, which
is happy to help start, run today’s activity. I am going to introduce
somebody here quickly to give some remarks. But I just can’t
resist saying, ever since I was a graduate student, the two people who are
up here I just uhm… I went to Cornell, had some Indian professors, famous professors.
I got there and they thought they said to me they told me that for them deity
was one of the professor’s here I’ll let you take your guess. And I thought my
advisors were deities. So just imagine deity upon deity okay and he’s here
today. So it’s just been wonderful and the other person who is going to be a
speaker, I won’t mention names, has just been a great mentor of mine and has just
been so helpful, again since my graduate school days. And so I’m just excited to
be here. I will just say everything we do at the Development Research Institute is
funded through the university very very generously. The Provost office in
particular and we have a wonderful person, a professor, somebody who has been
supporting us and been through many many many of our events,
and who has just been making sure that any time we need something at the
Development Research Institute we get support at the very very very highest
levels of the university. So please a big round of applause for the Deputy Provost
of New York University, Cybele Raver. Please! Hi everyone. I am indeed Cybele
Raver, that was extremely generous introduction. I serve as the Deputy
Provost of the University and it’s really an honor and a pleasure to
welcome you all here today both on my own behalf but also on behalf of
President Hamilton and Provost Fleming. As Provost Fleming has said many times,
New York University has immense strengths in the social sciences across
a wide number of disciplines and across numbers of schools and centers and
institutes. And to showcase these strengths she and our Dean
of the Social Science division of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences David
Stasavage are leading and launching a new event series of which
this is one part. So thank you so much David for launching this series and
organizing this event with a number of other leaders that with whom I think
this wouldn’t be possible. Chief among those is Professor Yaw Nyarko and his
colleagues Bill Easterly and Rajeev Dehejia from NYU’s
Development Research Institute. The support of DRI is in line with the
University’s commitment to the social sciences particularly as it affects the
developing world as well as developed countries. I’m specifically also in
thinking about having a positive impact on the lives of the poor who benefit
from high-quality economic research applied to the problems of world poverty.
Thanks also to the CV Starr Center for Applied Economics which is an
independent research nonprofit housed within the Department of Economics at
New York University. We really are very grateful to CV Starr for funding this
conference. And we also want to thank the Annual Review of Economics for providing
significant support for today’s conversation specifically with Tim Besley in taking the lead on that. Tim Besley is to be also very much
appreciated, he’s from the London School of Economics and he will be chairing the conversation as editorial committee
member of the Annual Review of Economics. He played a really key role primarily in
bringing the idea of hosting this conversation at NYU with DRI, so thank
you Tim for working with us on this. It is also of course my great pleasure to
welcome our two esteemed speakers both of whom are Nobel laureates. I will
mention briefly before saying their names, we actually have four Nobel
laureates with us today. So I want to thank in addition to Sir Angus Deaton
the Dwight d Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs
Emeritus at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School where he’s been
teaching for 30 years. We also have a Amartya Sen, the Thomas W Lamont University Professor and Professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University and
until 2004 the master of Trinity College Cambridge. So we are so deeply excited to
have both of those speakers and again to have a Professor Kanerman and
Professor Romer in the audience as well as of course many other of you who have
also been major prize winners and leaders and indeed as the next
generation of students among us will, we hope that they will be. Before I turn it
over to Professor Besley I just wanted to mention the extent to which these two speakers and their disciplines have so profoundly
transformed my own work and the work of my colleagues. I’m a behavioral social
scientists by training in psychology and public policy. Before I joined NYU, I was
actually on faculty at the University of Chicago in a department that had 17
economists, and for me that was really an eye-opener. It’s something that was quite
new in terms of interdisciplinary work. My colleagues had the same levels of
dedication to studying poverty and inequality that I did and yet they held
a path to a position that their work was value neutral, and that was kind of a
shock to me. I thought how could your work be value neutral? I soon came to
understand that what my colleagues meant was not that there were no values in
their models or methods and choosing which variables to include and choosing
which questions to ask and choosing which methods to use, but that they made
key choices on ways to reduce the value laden complexity of our discussions to
reduce mathematical forms. My favorite phrase that an economist friend would
say when he didn’t like something that I was working on, or he wasn’t
satisfied with one of my analyses was that, the perspective that I was taking,
that my model essentially was misspecified.
And I loved that it was such a tight quaint way of disagreeing with me, you
know, rather than saying I was completely wrong or I’d gone off the deep end. He
would sit quietly say your model is misspecified. And what he was really
saying was that I needed to take a second look, that I needed to think
through what I might have left out, mechanisms that I may have gotten wrong,
and underlying framework with which I was working that may have not been
sufficiently developed or might need work. And I really think that’s a
tremendous example or a model for how we in a very intensely hotly debated
intellectual space around issues that are of key concern can actually bring
the heat and light down enough to actually understand the problem in ways
that we can continue to discuss by thinking about how are we specifying the
problem. I’m grateful to those economic friends but also and more importantly to
these two intellectual Giants of our generation for pressing us to use both
intellectual and mathematic precision when trying to tackle issues of such
moral weight as poverty inequality in human welfare. And in that moment of
specifying our models we specify what matters most. This university, our
President and our Provost as well as the esteemed leaders of our faculty who’ve
made this event come together are clearly telling us what matters most,
aligning precision and rigor with value and depth and significance for the
problems that we tackle including these issues of inequality, poverty and Welfare.
So thank you so much to both of you, to all three of you really and pointing us
in this direction and showing us not just the market value of the work that
we do or the intellectual value of the work that we do, but the social value of
the work that we do in thinking about the world and making it a better place
through our intellectual effort. Thank you and with that I’ll turn it over to
Tim Besley. Please join me in welcoming him to the podium. Thank you very much Cybele and thank
you very much to my you for making this event possible. My main role today is to
keep order in the event that the panel gets out of control.
I’m sure won’t happen. I am standing here principally because I’m a member of
the editorial committee of the Annual Reviews of Economics and we decided at
our last editorial meeting to try and bring together Angus and Amartya to
have the conversation that we’re having today. I have to say even though I
thought it was a wonderful idea I was skeptical even in my own mind that
I’d be able to pull it off, but with the help of NYU we’ve done so. The Annual
Review of Economics is a relatively new member of the Annual Review stables,
which has a very wide range of subjects and covered. I think we the reason it got
off the ground so successfully was mostly to do with the efforts of Ken
Arrow. Ken was the very first editor who I think Sam Gubins who’s in the audience
today approached when the Annual Review of Economics was launched. And I am a
second-generation editorial board member and like many before me, having a letter
from Ken inviting you to join the board was sufficient to reply within about
five minutes that one was going to do it in spite of having any number of
existing commitments. It has been a remarkable success and I think we owe a
great debt of thanks to Ken for that. I’m not going to spend much time
further introducing Angus and Amartya but both have been very special figures
in my life and mentors. And I met them both when I was a graduate student and
if you don’t said to me then that I’d be standing here now more than 30 years
later introducing them in this context I think I wouldn’t wouldn’t have believed
you. But, it is wonderful we have them here. I’m gonna just gonna highlight
three things that they have in common. They both were educated at Cambridge.
They both as has already been mentioned are Nobel laureates. But I think more
importantly, they’re both deeply committed to making economics a subject
that speaks to fundamental real-world questions of really substantive
importance. And that shouldn’t be stressed
it can’t be stressed enough because that is, people like Amartya and Angus who keep
economics close to the kinds of things which I think the discipline was founded
to study. So without further ado I’m going to introduce hand over to Angus
who’s going to begin the conversation. So thank you. Thank you Tim, sounds like these
microphones are working. Just one little thing about the ground rules,
Tim is trying very much to stay in the background and to pretend to only be the
chair of this thing. But I’m hoping we’ll have a much more three-way conversation
than two-way conversation. I second that. Okay. Also when I agreed to do this, I thought well, you
know, I’ll go back and read what Amartya Sen has written. And you know, I find a
very dated Vida and when I go past the first 26 books I thought, okay, you know
we’re gonna need a team to do this but or a village perhaps. So I’m hoping Tim
will pile in as we go. Just a little bit about our relationship to Amartya.
Neither of us were students of Amartya in the sense that he did not supervise
our dissertations, though Tim tells me that Amartya was formerly his moral
tutor or something of the sort in Oxford for a brief. Of course that’s moral. Maybe tutoring morals rather than moral tutor. But Amartya did not
advise him nor did Amartya advised me. So neither of us are standing here as a
Amartya’s pupils in the usual academic sense. However, for both of us, Amartya’s
writing has been absolutely crucial influencing us at very many points in our
career. I think I met Amartya first in 1969 which is almost half a century ago.
And even though we worked on different things for most of our lives, that cross
influence has just been incredibly important to me as it has been for Tim.
And I think that’s true of many of our generation especially in Britain and of
some of the generation before. I’m thinking of people like Tony Atkinson,
Nick Stern, and Jim Early’s who died very recently sadly. Okay, so to get into the
substance, let’s start. Tim talked about Ken Arrow and his role in starting the
Annual Reviews in Economics and I heard you about a year ago
explain how you and Shiva my Chakravarthi as students at Presidency
College in Calcutta who heard that Arrow had written this book social choice and
individual values, you couldn’t afford to buy it because you were penniless
students, but you got a bookseller of Calcutta to lend you a copy provided you
promise to keep it clean. And that sort of launched your career in or your
interest in social choice theory and I think Arrow has been a very important
influence on your life ever since. Well totally. Yeah, no, that was my
first year in Calcutta Presidency College. I’d just come from my school in
Shantiniketan. And uhm… Chakravarthi though to remember that now but he was
but he was a very extraordinarily gifted guy. And we had a
system whereby we go to the local bookshop and and they would lend us this
book or a day covering it covering with a old newspaper so that we didn’t soil the cover, which was a very general thing to do. I think, I think, I think the
most important book that I read under that rubric was Canal. Actually that was
about six months after the book came out, so pretty early. And then I remember sitting down with
sitting down with …. why does the proof work and could it be shortened?
Now we know that it could be very much shortened. But it’s really it had a profound impact.
Another book which is not connected with Ken’s which have had a huge influence on me was Ken Galloway’s book called Enlightened Capitalism. Because we all both ….. and I where lefties as it were and one of the things that I mean if
I look back and think about contributions to my thinking and I do
want to come back to Canal, because no one compared in terms of influence on
me than with Ken. But Mark was a big insurance to rather earlier than Canal. But there was
something totally missing there I thought, when I first read it,
namely politics. I mean one doesn’t think of Mark being apolitical.
But he was basically uninterested in politics I think, because if you ain’t
interested in politics, he would talk about or think about how you keep people in check.
I mean you can’t think of a bomier idea then dictatorship of the proletariat it
means absolutely them all and at the same time I was getting a huge amount
from what many of those things that you know I do objectively loosen which you
know he was talked about as false consciousness. The idea that needs and
desert are very different things, this is critical go to program and that to
confuse them will be a mistake and a serial justice could get off from either
end and and so on. But there was this lack of understanding or
interesting in politics, really. That somehow you get the good reason to come there and they’re
going to govern things well. And, and, and it’s really I think Ken Galbraith’s American Capitalism, and which in a sense
is a is huge praise of capitalism which have a cutting profound
understanding of it. That book I will lend for four hours. I was trying to finish
it in a coffee shop. And I was reading it and trying to explain to the coffeehouse
manager that one cup of coffee was sufficient to sit there for four hours and read this book because
I didn’t have more money than that, and I wanted to really read there, the light was very
good and so forth. I think that’s.. I’m so glad that Angus bought this up. I mean those were
very formative periods in me in my thoughts. I think it influenced Komawi
my friend but it really devastated me in terms of. I had thought about there being
groups and in a vague way partly connected with maths of sets and so on. I
was concerned about how could you say that this is what the group wants. And that had
bothered me and it seems ostensibly to start with as if Canal was saying that
you couldn’t. That is not what he was saying. And I think it’s in the relay
again here and if I may say, negation of negation it is trying to dispute that
understanding of Ken that I, it became clear to me what I ought to do. I was
first-year undergraduate and first year in Calcutta with really pretty young. I was seventeen at the time. And
then of course I’ve been Cambridge and absolutely no one took an interest in it.
Somewhat hostile, General Robinson was totally hostile, Richard Convert
totally hostile. Nikki Caldo was what he normally did. Namely, encourage you on
grounds that a certain amount of foliage in your life is necessary for your
character building. The only one who took an interest was oddly enough, a man named
Morris Dob. He took a lot of interest in me. He was the only one who taught
welfare economics in the class. And indeed a number of the fellow
left-wingers like Bob Russel I can think of, regarded that to be a great mistake. But he wanted me to explain the theorem
and why it was interesting and so forth. And the other was also a semi Marxist
named Amir Schaffa and then we talked about. He was having a debate at
that time with with Gramsci. Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist
Party, the great intellectual, the founder of L’Ordine Nuovo which I remember
Bob Silverst one’s telling me that if the New York Review reaches that level
as L’Ordine Nuovo then he would be really pleased. I can’t think of a higher compliment
coming from somebody like Albert Silvests running the New Yorker gratis a day. But
he was telling me, Schaffa was telling me… I’m sorry I’m taking a lot of time.
That’s all right! It’s your memoirs well. I think it’s
terrific for this audience because these names you know, John Robinson is probably
known to many people here but many of these others would not like Morris Dob
who was regarded as sort of brother unsound in spite of being a Marxist, he
was rather on the right. Yes indeed. In fact uhm, decide because and when he
first moved to Trinity I couldn’t believe this that now, you know that
Angus knew that. You know he was a member of the British Communist Party already
and Dennis Robertson who always describes himself as a liberal but in fact was
conservative and he offered him a job. And Morris accepted it immediately who was then a research student at Federal College. And then he went on being good
Englishman, he wondered shouldn’t I have mentioned that I’m a member of the
Communist Party and then he wrote a letter of apology. I think specifically
English what you I can think of every writing saying that when you offered me a
job I was overwhelmed with a good prospect of becoming a teacher in Trinity
that I overlooked to tell you for which I apologize, that I remember the
British Communist Party and if after knowing that you decide that you want to
withdraw your offer of my teaching Trinity undergraduates, I would like you to
know that I would not hold that against you. First, I had this story from Schaffa and later on from Dob. And at Schaffa at the end said that was a damn damn stupid letter that Morris wrote. And then
he got a reply from Dennis Robertson saying dear Dob, so long as you
give us a fortnight notice before blowing up the chapel, it will be alright. So anyway he was a, so he he took an interest and I think he was actually much broader than that. But
shuffle was debating the fact that, Gramsci from whom Schaffa got a lot
and we may or may not get to it but I believe that he had a profound influence
on American philosophy namely Wittgenstein’s conversion from the early
phase of Tractatus with rules and regulations about language use and to
philosophical investigation mainly finding out what makes communication
possible, there are rules but these are rules that emerge from a public
discussion almost an anthropological view as Wittgenstein himself described
of language. So it was a big figure but Gramsci took the wheel like many boxes
do that Bozo Liberty is not important. And Schaffer wrote a long letter then
I later on seen it. We have it in Trinity in ran library but it won’t be first only
that saying to Gramsci saying that beautiful or ugly,
likable or not, poor or Liberty which you will decry is the thing that Italian
this is the fascist period, Italian from Italia, he needs over everything else. Any
other conquest and I’m quoting the language, that the prolitalia wishes
to make has to bring on that solid basis of accepting what you call mutual liberty. Now of course they said they’ve for found connection with social
choice theory and my own work was very much connected but one of part of my
work. So this, all this was going on at at that time but I think I should not
I’ve taken a lot liberty. I want to come back to that but could we say a little
bit about John Robinson. I mean you showed up in Cambridge as a graduate
student the age of 19 and John Robinson actually supervised your thesis right, on
the choice of techniques. I read you wrote about her she was
totally brilliant but vigorously intolerant, right? Which given how gentle
you usually are are very strong words. Do you want to talk a little bit more about
her? I mean she she’s often regarded as you know the most distinguished woman in
economics who should have gotten the Nobel Prize you know?
I get the sense she didn’t have much lasting influence on you that she derailed you
into writing a thesis on something you weren’t particularly interested in, yeah?
But maybe that’s not true. That’s absolutely true!
I don’t know how to describe a person other than vigorously intolerant when
she told me as my supervisor that, I read the first chapter and it the kind of
thing that will be praised by established economist. And you will have no difficulty getting your PhD. You no in Cambridge your supervisors is not one of you examiners unlike in America. So she said, I’m now going to read the rest of your thesis and I said but you were supposed to say that it can be submitted for PhD and she
said I will say it. So I said what basis? On the basis of having read chapter one.
And it’s eight chapters by the way and she said it’s good, clearly it’s good good in the
way that these people will understand it. I mean it’s not worthy of you and someday you’ll have to promise me you have to come back to real economics. I don’t know
whether vigorously not intolerant any. Now I had a odd relationship with her because I liked her very much she was very kind to me. Great interest in my personal life, when
why first marriage broke up, she commanded me with a letter to come and see her and
told me not to. And I didn’t say none of your business.
She said it’s a bad thing once you have children, and we did have two children, it’s unkind to the children. And in a sense, she was having her own life. Really and which she didn’t wake up. But she remained very kind to me thought out. Knew that I didn’t take much of economics really. See, it began, my first year, she
was not my supervisor. Second year I had worked with Morris Dob and John Robertson. And John told me that she just finished a book called Accumulation of Capital, that if I
liked, instead of my writing essays for her, I could read one chapter of her book and
discuss it. Which I did, which seemed things saved an easier way of spending
time. And I did. And I also you know, I don’t think I quite used that expression,
but I also told her why I didn’t like the book. Basically why I don’t think so. And there was also in a sense she thought that, I mean if she her view of left and
right was very peculiar. And I think she was saying that my not taking interest
in that and taking interest in such thing as welfare economics and social
choice theory, I was showing myself to be unsympathetic to the working classes instead of having all this capital theory. And I remember one occasion trying to tell her that uhm and if there is a downfall of
capitalism it won’t be because of some subtle mistaken capital theory. It will
be because of the cold PQ and that upset her very much. Because of the of the
being sweet and hollowed life that capitalism makes her feel. I don’t if she
understood that at all and she thought it was all connected with this something
where the capital could be seen as a factor of production or not. And so you
know I was completely out of tune and with her and although I mean he was in
many ways almost to say that in terms of there will be something with me formally
as well as …Schaffer who was a teacher to me also, but I and even though we disagree we argued but this continued you know. It was a continuous
relationship. In her case where they kind of break out and she took a position
which actually it became very common became very common in India now but not coming
from the left was on the right. That what you have to concentrate on this economic
growth. Once you have grown and become rich then you can do health care,
education, knowledge, love. Which I think is the most profound error that you can
make and that was John’s position. And in fact she criticized Sri Lanka for
offering highly subsidized food to everyone. And I remember the phrase he
used, the sentence was Sri Lanka is trying to take the fruit of the tree without growing it. This is remarkable as you talk.
Because you know, I came there much later than you did but those were very
powerful personalities, all of these people. When anyone goes into graduate
school, they usually have no idea what they want
and they’re reshaped by the people around them which is why people try to
go to really good graduate school. But, you really in some sense came out as you
went in, which is a fairly remarkable thing. I mean you you thought about welfare
economics you thought about social well-being, they were interested in
production, yeah you know and they didn’t it didn’t really move you at all.
I mean you want me to say you know I was very lucky I think in that respect. I
have to see you do this credit plays till. I had support from the fact that I
had on one side people whose politics was similar to one namely very less Morris Dob, Schaffa and also on the other side, there was Pigou-Dalton and it seemed to me that I mean, there was a guy talking about inequality as
Tony Atkinson recognized you know. The Atkinson measure was inspired by Pigou. He talks about poverty about the qualitative definition of economics. He
talks about the environment and the pollution and so on. And they seem really wonderful economics, and I was told that he was a right-wing economists.
Because he didn’t they with dominant change about the color the
volume from it and in fact when I first when I went to
Stockholm for this Nobel stuff, they they asked me in a interview saying, what
you’ve position about some microeconomics? I said I don’t do microeconomics. I don’t, I actually never done it. And I took the liberty of quoting a common friend of
ours named Frank …., namely that the subject doesn’t exist, because macro must
be a totality of micro things in this. And that didn’t go down well in Stockholm. But they did ask me but surely on change classes to you. So I said on the
unemployment issue and they will be but if I compare an economist like Keynes
who never took an interest in inequality, on poverty, on the environment and Pigou
who took interest in all of them, I don’t think I will be able to say exactly what you are asking me to say. So I think I was lucky. I think Pigou helped me a lot and that
way actually the person who helped me on with Pigou was Dennis Felton who
was a big figure in my life though we disagreed. We agreed on something.
We agreed on utility and interpersonal comparisons being okay. And I had close
relations with him and I remember my last dinner with him which was that
David Cameron has gone to India for a moth.
When I came back he was dead but in that he said he said you know Amartya
that, no one knows the right tune of the owl and the Pussycat. My
great-grandmother taught me that and I said I want to hear it. And David joined me in demanding that and he sang. That was at the end of it
he said well when I’m dead no one would know the collective of the Owl and the Pussycat. That was my last
thing and then then two days later I went to India and I was coming back I
still remember the occasion I was nearly missing a train and I think in foreign
countries I can’t remember I ran and got into it and Michael Posner was with the
compartment said did I know that Denisovich have died. I was totally
grieved not that of a student because I don’t think I’m like from Dob and Schaffa, he
wasn’t my teacher really but as a real friend even though he was he was very quite elderly which means if
it younger than what I am now and I was less than half the age I think. Very nostalgic to think about these. Well, he’s a name that I imagined
very few economists could tell you anything about. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can I, I’d like to go
back a little bit further even. Yeah. So, you know in your childhood
in India you lived through a very traumatic period of Indian history.
You saw communal violence. You’ve written about murder. Communal murder, yeah. You lived through the Bengal famine. You look through the
partition of Bengal. You had a very serious medical problem of your own
which very nearly killed you. All of these experiences have echoes in your
work or I certainly think they do. Particularly, it’s very broad perspective
and thinking about human well-being beyond its material basis. Maybe will
pick up these things as we go, but would you like to elaborate on that a little
bit? Yeah. They were kind of two of them were devastating experience. The cancer I
regard as a victory, yes. Since I was given a 15 percent chance of living five
years and I was 67 years or something like that. I think I did alright on
that one. But the the Bengal famine, the striking thing of course was the
economics of it is what I first looked at mainly and that is the deal is the
loss I mean in four years before the Empire ended.
And it was really completely avoidable famine and basically, I had figured out
in my own mind that the problem was not that the British had the wrong figure.
Because they were claiming that there was so much food in Bengal there couldn’t be a famine. An its true, Bengal had a lot of food but that’s the fight is also demand. And and that is the time
when the Japanese we’re at the border of Burma in India in fact part of the
Japanese army was in India and the armies were moving in the British Indian
Army is really the British Army and later American, all coming in there
consuming a lot. Air drones being constructed. No matter what theory you take effective
demand or money supply, all of them give you similar prediction that the prices
was high. And and people don’t live on the fact that there is food they live on
the fact that they can buy the food so that was the thing. And actually the idea
wasn’t original to me at all. The Bengali papers were all writing this but the Bengali papers were banned. The the daily papers.
All you can do where these monthly magazines which my grandmother used to read and I was reading. I was between 9 and 10 years at that time. I was very interested in what was going on. And later 30 years later when I did some work on it, I
kept on telling him that I had met somewhere before. Well I’ve read them somewhere before. What I was trying to
say, but I read them in this magazine. Because they were saying roughly the
same thing. So later on when my book came out, some of my friends went on saying,
this is not original people knew it. My claim was to say that’s exactly what I’m
saying if not only you know. It has been known the point is that it has not been
used or practiced. And the really interesting when this famine broke and the drought went on. We had originally a very bad vice was totally unsympathetic called
Linlithgo, who from the same region as the only person for whom I take some
credit in trying to influence British politics. When I first met Tandeil he was the president of the Tony club
and I argued and argued and his faithful coming down anyway and they
left the wing party joined labor became in some ways nest wing labor and at least in some issues. But that is the lien let go country. But she never took any
interest at all in this and there was a big difference when it was towards the
end of the famine when Whele came in, and his very first day he writes is
novel saying I ought to go to Bengal and makes a
slight comment on that not having been despite two years of
famine and so on. And of course the it was not for the the better we’re
in a great deal of mind it took me three political aspects of my work namely
Statesman which was a very good paper excellent paper and the the editor of it
was Ian Stevens who was I can’t I came to know him later well because he was
the fellow of Kings when I’m a young fellow when I was a young student at
Cambridge. But he was the editor of that in that great statesman house which
still exists and the width did not censor this English own paper but appealed to the English own paper that for the sake of the war it is important that
nothing about the famine we discussed. So while people were dying the statement
did not publish anything. Ultimately one day and I’ve even known which day it was
16 to August, 15 of August, 16 was editorial, 15 of August 1943 that Ian Stevens said that he’s betraying his profession. He is a journalist he’s not
writing it and he said he couldn’t live with that. So on the 16th August and the
18th August came with vitriolic attack on the British Empire’s policy on planning
and India didn’t have a parliament but
Britain did. But the British Parliament has not discussed this, because the
information was totally lacking similar to this what would happen I
don’t want to go into that now, we might later the Chinese famine where 30 million people died.
Britain didn’t know much about it. Now here the Westminster didn’t know very much about it but after the
Statesman editorial within three days it’s discussed in Parliament within
seven days there is a resolution and within two weeks
famine reliefs begins, which had not gone on for nine months of people dying.
Ultimately three million people died from that famine. And for those who are
interested by the way, Ian Steven wrote a book called the Monsoon morning which
is about his own experience in it. And he was quite proud of that saying, the only time I’ve written an obituary in The Statesman and in the Times in The Times
in London was when I met his obituary and didn’t mention he role in the famine.
So I sent a supplementary obituary which which The Times did publish. But by the
time I went as an undergraduate in Cambridge, I knew that he was in Kings and I went to see him. I couldn’t find him first, and the door was unlocked that I came in. But he was on his
head a habit picked up in India, doing yoga in one corner of the room, looking
very much like a kind of ancient statue of some kind. I got him down from there
and upside up and then we chatted. And then I thinkI must have had some six or seven dinners with him. Very proud of that period of his life and and actually talking I mean take telling the first person who mentioned me
mentioned doing him Foster. Mogul Foster. We had these meant
to be secret was no longer a secret. Apostolic connections with Foster and
Foster said I said look, I would like to meet Foster can you introduce me? And
he said certainly, I can introduce you. I know him well. And he said I’m generally not a friend of India. And what we thought Morgan Foster meant is that after partition, the British civil
servants divided themselves up into into different camps. And he was in the Pakistani camp. Now that mattered to read not at all you know. The life that he said we’re
Hindus and Muslims all over Bengal and but that was his and and then what
happened he went to Pakistan for a while and then he felt very rebuffed that he
hadn’t quite recognized yet this rather with his view of the this is a a group
of people who were less hostile to the Empire unlike the Hindu revolutionaries. Which is not exactly true. And in fact the fundraising Foster’s Passage to India are these clearly a Muslim but that was
his relief then he came when he came to back to England and
got a terrible thing. Ian Steven was very disappointed with Pakistan and he
had forgotten the famine period. So for him, it was I think at least I took it
that way that he was very willing to talk with me about the famine but what I
learned there, there was several things I learned. One is that press freedom had
something to do with the famine. I learned also that which I knew when I was a child that
you could have a famine with a lot of food around. And the how the country
is governed makes a difference. The British did not want rebellion in
Calcutta. North, I believe no one in Calcutta died in the famine. People died
in Calcutta but they were not of Calcutta. They came from there from elsewhere on
grounds that whatever little clarity there was came from Indian businessman, but
they were all in Calcutta. So they were into coming into Calcutta but there were not enough of that but the Calcutta people were entirely
protected. Three million people had ration card, which means about 6 million
people where very minimally being fed by very subsidized price. And what the
government did was to buy rice and whatever it would need in the rural
areas making the price shoot up and then sell it at subsidized price in Calcutta. And so there are some card holding Calcutta people had no particular reason for
liking and that would be Empire the Rodman confirmed.
There lots of things I learned that but I don’t know whether you want to go on
the right thing. But yeah, I want to I mean that in some ways is perhaps
your most famous of what I think of as this long-running streak of empirical
work that you’ve done from very early on I mean even from your thesis. Yeah. I’m sort of a skewing econometrics but making a very good job of interpreting the data
in ways that are enormously illuminating. But maybe we should go back
you know I didn’t know any and since I’m a teacher now I like that since I was
there and then people would say something and I said I don’t know
anything. Because there’s mathematical economics plus economics fix. Economic fix is
connected with marshaling of information data and then the kind of
things that Angus is so wonderful at. And I don’t I could have said I do not
do it if I wanted to be kind to myself but I said I cannot do it which is true. And so there’s ambiguity. But have done very little a little work but surely. You have had done
a lot of very important empirical works. And I mean, that book was one I think which has
which you know many pure economists would claim as their own in the sense of
saying you know, this is an economic problem, it’s not a technology it’s not a
problem of not having enough food or something and we have to think about the
allocation of resources and entitlements and all that stuff. But I want to bring
you back you said you talked about Arrow at the very beginning and I want
to come back to some of the more abstract thinking you’ve done. Yeah. You’ve done, and
inference in your book The Idea of Justice, which is what ten years old now
something. Yeah, it is ten years old. Yeah exactly, you play off Arrow and Rawls who was very
important to you too with Adam Smith and some sense. So you’ve got this Amartya Sen stirring the pot of Rawls and Arrow and Adam Smith plays a big
role in that. Yeah, yeah. Presumably you never taught a
course with him. I tried. You know when I grew up in Embory, he was a very obscure
figure, no one really paid much attention to Adam Smith and that’s really changed
quite a lot in recent years. I arrived in Kirkcaldy to see his house. Now there’s something
there but I couldn’t find his house and then I went to this, there was a tourism center and I said could you tell me
where Adam Smith’s house was and they say who is that you you’re talking about? And
I said well, why is Kirkcaldy famous for linoleum. Linoleum is the answer, much more that Adam Smith. But, but tell us a little bit about where you stand on those issues. I mean in that book you you’re taking
you know you’re taking different position from Rawls and you know you, can
do things that Rawls could not do like talk about global injustices in a way.
You use some of Ken Arrows framework to argue that and you make great use of
Smith’s Impartial Spectator yeah as a way of thinking about justice – so maybe
you could talk about some of those issues. Yes absolutely. It was when I
was in Presidency College in Calcutta aside from the fact that
Marx had a profound influence on me, and in this tiny way in a particular way
as I mentioned but, uhm, the canal, my formal work that I was
already doing was canal. By the way, I ought to say something since often I
have rather a foot down on Indian education. When I first arrived in
Cambridge in Cambridge and my for my first semester my supervisor was Ken
Bell and we had a complete non meeting of mine because he thought that I ought
to look at Samuelson and I was qouting some of it and it meant nothing to him.
Because he had asked me to read the introduction and I was
talking about the foundation of economic analysis which was a more
sophisticated book. It was because in Calcutta I had done foundation to the
economic analysis and then arriving after two years of that in in Cambridge I was
being relegated to introduction. You know, but actually, Bell had a point really, in
the sense that he said, you have to read the elementary book very carefully. I think
that would be good advice. But Smith was the big figure already. Not in my
nobody lectured on Smith at Presidency. But I read first the Wealth of Nations
and then The Wall Sentiment and it had a kind of profound impact on me. Later and
this is an advertisement, there is a small sentiment edition
which I see as mine because I wrote a long introduction to it. That’s the
Penguin commemorative 250th anniversary of sentiment published in 1759 and I we
managed to get it down in that year. I think it came out on the 29th of
December. Just made it. But there I discussion as to why they really had
never been any columnist like Smith and there probably never will be. I think and
I’m so glad that Angus asked that question. I think the the Canal there
were days there were these formal problems which interested me and didn’t
interest Smith. But there were basically human problems including the title of
this talk which Tim talks a lot welfare present and in the future. That’s
what really what Smith was about. The also that you you know he never
used the word capitalism not because it’s not known the term capitalism was
being used by a number of his contemporaries but not him.
And I think he had a kind of real fear of classifying them and I you focused
and always asked this question. I said I don’t even know what you mean.
By capital do you mean market economy or you mean a market economy with a
state and social safety nets and health care.
What do you mean? So he was discussing how you have to think about the
institution put together, how they work and there, there’s a passageway he’s
asking himself the question. This is the Guru of the market economy allegedly. He
asked himself the question that why is it that we want sound political economy, why is it important? People say because it will lead to in his language
I’m not quoting that high growth rate that basically was he saying. High
progress. High rate of progress. Why is that important? And he said well it’s
important to win. First all it gives the individual more income and that gives
them he doesn’t use the word capability but that’s what they say he is talking
about here again. I’m saying sometimes this thought is what they really
attributed to me I’m not the original in there either. I mean that was also
said. That it gives you the ability to choose the kind of life that
you would like to lead with affluence. And secondly, it gives the state more revenue
allowing the state to do those things which only the state can do well and as
an example he talks about school education. so I think there was a, a
kind of, you know I’ve never been I mean I’ve many fault but I’ve not been I
think dogmatic in terms of systems. Uhm, social life, socialism I have never
answered that question. And that I think I got something inside. The other thing I
got from Smith was why the you know Smith exaggerated a lot.
But he exaggerated when he wanted to make a point. And give two example of the
exaggeration. One example, is ,he’s talking about
slavery, and here by the way, unlike David Hume who showed some weakness on that, in
fact had the passage. I mean David Hume was known then Xenophobic and he had
very high things to say our Asians particularly Chinese but also Indians and
others. Africa he was not so clear and he and one occasion even say that he wasn’t
certain about equality on that. Now you will not find not a single shred of that
kind of sort by Smith. But he forgets about that I was happy to write
here to exaggerate. And he said that there is not a single African in the
entire course from which slaves were recruited, whose magnanimity falls short
of that level of system of measurement that his sordid master is completely unable to understand. Not only saying
that slaves were not inferior people, he’s saying that superior people to
their sordid master. The other example is that is the English attitude
about the Irish going back to the fairy queen and Irish bring it upon themselves
and chief among them is if they are inclination to eat potato. And Smith had
a section in The Wealth of Nations on the nutritional value of the potato which
when I was reading it, I wondered what the hell is he going to go on to that?
And then he says that I know that in London potato is the food. But I
ask you these questions, who are the most powerful people you’ll encounter in in
London? And then he says the most powerful people are the people that you
encounter are the porters who carry heavy bag in in Paddington and elsewhere
and he said without exception they come from Ireland.
Then he proceeds to say and I thought he is getting onto dangerous territory.
Who are the most beautiful women you would encounter in London? Now I don’t
know the way to the what research, he comes to the conclusion that the
prostitutes in Mayfair are the most beautiful woman you would encounter.
And then he says without exception they are from Ireland. Then he said no further
proof need be given on the nutritional value of the potato. Now, complete
exaggeration. But totally to the point namely that, you hear one exaggeration
you hit it hard with another exaggeration. With this, I found the totally enchanting. I
can give four or five examples of this kind. But basically by the time, I
came on a boat on a ship to England from Bombay track never eighteen days so
I couldn’t afford tourist class. Economy class as it is now called fair and therefore I had to buy a ticket on a ship which gave me eighteen days bed, eighteen days free
meal, it gave me eighteen days of free wine which I hadn’t started drinking yet but was hoping to get onto that very soon. That was cheaper and I was reading also
sometimes a little bit of topology which I wanted to read more about but
sometimes Smith and others and when I compare
him with with all others that I could compare him with I couldn’t read come to
say in in English because there was not a available addition there that I could
wait he could have completed but I thought I would dismiss with men I mean
I couldn’t read the theory of all sentiment I really felt that I’ve read
something and then I think it’ll work – amazing. So I think you’re absolutely
right. So in some ways the theory of justice, the structure is Smith and the technical problems come under Canal and and
some of the philosophical complexities under Rawls. But what makes my
understanding of justice cohere is Smith. It’s quite extraordinary.
Can I, uhm, I’m a little mindful of time, but let me
you know, when I first knew you or I don’t think you knew me but what I you I
knew you and you may have forgotten what to our first conversation but I can
remind you. Well maybe afterwards. You know we
Scott’s still exaggerate a lot and I’m a little worried about what stories you
might have to tell from there but I mean I do remember in Cambridge in 1969 in
the early 70s, there was very close contact between economists and
philosophers and there were tables in which people sat around and evening
seminars and talks and and I know some of the philosophers who were there at
that time and remember that too. And there were there looked like there
was going to be this very close integration of welfare economics.
I mean welfare economics that had its problems. I mean Graphs book was 10
years old of that probably. Smith not this minute Ian littles book but I mean
there was a lot of thriving discussion between economics and philosophy and
welfare economics seem to have some chance of coming back. But if you look at
where we are now most economists you go to top economic departments there’s no
welfare economics thought at all. No. It’s just completely vanished. On the
other hand you’ve got practical philosophers who are doing economics
without knowing any economics which is a sort of disaster on the other
side. Yeah. And you know an economists have a sort of bastard idea of welfare
economics or of what human wellbeing which is not thought out at all and so
are you disappointed in this? I mean you know, when you started out it looked like
there would be a different future and you know what happened and what needs to be done now to get us back in a better place? Yeah. I think the The Economist is ignoring philosophy in general but
welfare in particular is a kind of gigantic folly. I
think the best article on that is is from the Atkinson. Disappearance of
Welfare Economics, yeah, pleading to bring it back again. It is one of
the last pieces he wrote and it yeah sort of bemoans the loss of any sort
of philosophical sophistication to you know I mean most economists wouldn’t
know what a utilitarianism and I mean even elementary stuff just vanished.
And so that’s certainly he was promoting that. Yeah, but you know what this period
that you’re talking about when it’s all flourishing as it where, it had a kind of
seed of its own destruction. Because the two most famous books name the Graph
you would you refer to and he and Little were both essentially negative. I mean he and Little took us in the behavioral direction and you know you can make it
the personal compiled with you’re comparing behavior. It’s never been clear
to me philosophically or common sense wise as to how can you compare behavior
that give you a diverse McRaven, it is very far away. And then, Graph of course basically demolish the subject. Now he demolished the subject in showing that that you all
these assumptions made and you know he was dealing with easy target and someone
who had criticized uhm… compensation test. I mean, the basic… it’s amazing
that the compensation they said the life at all
and it’s also amazing somebody with such common sense named Nicky Caldo proposed it,
that if you can compensate they don’t this is for those who don’t know. But
it’s a way easy idea to summarize in 30 and seconds. That if some people gain
and others lose, if the gains have gained us have gained so much that they can
compensate the losses and still retain some gained and it’s an improvement. And
then you ask the question, do they actually compensate the losers? Oh no no they don’t
have to do it well. I mean what kind of improvement is that? I mean the Bangor
famine might have been a compensation test victory because everybody quite a
lot of people were eating normal right but they Hicks fell for it. And then I asked
him because I came to know him very well. By the way I ought to
say that I read some of Hicks in Calcutta.
I thought the Mandarin Capital was a great book and the moment I arrived in
Cambridge I was told by my guru that this is a terrible book. And you can see why I was
being so resistant to John Dalton by the way I could say in a slightly different
way about Lionel Roberts too – I think they were very unfair to him. But Hicks was one
of the great glories of 20th century I think, and then I came to know him, but
there was interesting thing, he put his name down, called sometimes Randolph Hicks
– and then in his in one of the later books, I think all Essays in World
Economics, I think, he refers to he says in the preface, for a little while being
deflected by a somewhat he use it like a welfare minded friend, I
went in a wrong direction but I abandoned that position soon. No where his name mentioned except in the index it says Kaldo M page 13. I think the what
they did was to show that most of the very all the wealth economic didn’t make
sense you couldn’t make an interview no any serous, but for you before you go on
from that, we’re laughing about these compensation tests and how stupid they
were, but they’ve totally infected American jurisprudence today and international criteria too,
yes, and and the Supreme Court thinks is applying compensation just like that on
a day-to-day basis and you know violating contracts is fine if the
surplus is large enough. Yeah, but so this this monster is still right there. I know,
but it never underestimate the power of a bad idea. Especially if you can express
it in three seconds. No, I agree to that and I for a little while induce by persuaded by Jim Heckman. I
was I was on the advisory board of the American bar counsel and talking about the rule of law. And talking about the rule of law, it was quite fun. But the compensation thing and
when I ask saying why do you use that? They said no no economists have established that. I’m glad you can laugh about it. I mean, I I’m surprised it doesn’t make,
well first of all, it’s a very serious matter.
I mean the people are bad things are happening to people because of these bad
ideas, but also I mean for you, I’m trying to get you to look sad or something and
say look you know you’ve had this magnificent career you’ve done all these
wonderful things you’ve written things that have changed many people’s lives
but the central enterprise of sort of bringing serious philosophy and welfare
back into economics yeah has not been a success in society. Yeah, that’s
quite right. Nor bringing serious economics into photography. There other way
around also. Because they you know they they there’s a certain amount of
economics that goes around in particularly in the in law and and law and economics and and
also in Lauren in the legal school and where you hear about income economics
idea. But yeah I think there’s a kind of balanced picture of failure and
all around there but the reason I’m mentioning it is that one of the thing
that when I told John that I want to do originally she said that have you not
recognized that this is a not deflated. This is a bastard subject and he referred to Graph and saying they were all trying to do it do it and and this is
John Gravity the cleverest of them all maybe. Showed that all this is
nonsense subtle he didn’t show it and and he himself never claimed it either.
No, well he gave up right you wrote this book and went back to his farm right so
I came to and grapes, that’s the story you know but he came and he was he spent
the year with me in also college as visiting fellow and he wrote a number of
very interesting papers. Okay it reminds me of conversations you and I had I can
remember where we had them very early in my career more than 30 years ago, where
there is a triumph I think of welfare economics that we could approve off
which is the many things that have been done in the name of utilitarianism. Many
of which are things we should applaud that in the 19th century reformers very
much influenced by Bentham. Yet you throughout your career consistently been
suspicious of this philosophical basis of utilitarianism, how can it be that
something that apparently has done so much good in the world is
philosophically suspect? Well eh, faulty doesn’t mean that he’s valueless. I think no I
think the foundational problems of Utilitarianism recognize like not attaching not distinguishing between different sources. But the I think the there is the point that John Rawls made
that Utilitarians don’t take the difference between people, the separation
of people sufficiently seriously. Somehow one person’s game could compensate
another person loss when you’re going by aggregate. Now, you need not if you take
against me not something and you know there so basically you’ve returned to
take a different position so but it’s not that surprising that sound theory
with with which one may disagree I didn’t have enough theory and you know
that is one of the historically give me in I give an example which I don’t
accept that if it were to it was mere a good example but you can see what. It’s a
Marx on India who thinks that India was the great civilization was had fallen
very badly and the only way of curing it is some influence that knocks it from
outside with the society is not able to generate data to article he wrote for
the eighteen fifties. And they were brilliant
reason. I think we’re mistaken is to assume that you need a Napa to bring it
from outside if that were the case, the Japanese would not have grown, they
would wait for not from major exploration but from some other country
to take it all over that’s not the way to do it. So Marx is mistaken. But suppose
Marx was right, they would be right to say that Utilitarianism is not a very
good system. But my God it did a lot of good for India. Can I come back to this period when welfare economics is
in disarray and and you’re you know pushing alternative views, but it never
stopped you doing this sort of applied welfare economics. I think and I
think in 1972 you wrote these guidelines on project evaluation, which
was sort of very practical welfare economics trying to do good for the
world. You know, let’s not worry too much about the philosophical underpinnings of
it. I also remember you you edited a book on economic growth, I think I learned
almost all I know about economic growth I’m gonna get Paul Romer sitting there
from reading the introduction that you wrote to that little volume. But that
growth theory of the time is all tied up with the project evaluation so it was
sort of you know okay I’m really bothered by welfare you can
always buy utilitarianism by Rawls and and Arrow but I’m gonna go on and do
good in the world by adding up income sort of something. That is quite right. I think I guess that’s
a contradiction really, well as the guideline. It began as a work with Steven Baldwin. He was a student. You came to Cambridge when? 69, right!
So this is like almost a decade before that I was giving some lectures, I’ve
just become a five-shot alright again 20 and then there was this smart American sitting in the front row and there was Steven Baldwin. And then he was
working then you see the Americans were kind of obsessed with water. And I think they
may have been connected with California which is where he comes from.
But there was a water project in Harvard going on and what I did was basically
working with Steve to you know I have to confess that I’ve never liked
neoclassical economics but I’ve really good neoclassical economist, right. I
could do it pretty well, which is why which is a compliment that was paid to
me by James Meades when he was giving a lecture and he used to
haul stuff and he asked me to jointly do it with him. And I said you know James
that I’m skeptical of it and he said I know very well that you’re skeptical of it.
But you do it well. I and so in some ways that is also a neoclassical book, you know? Absolutely! It adds to Tims question that I’m not entirely consistent… It’s also sort of part of what was
really a planning literature and so so. You know, you were in Calcutta when Mala
Albus was there and the very early days of the Indian state and he was you know
writing the first plans for India. You don’t talk to my that in your reminiscences of
that period. I did write a couple of papers from our Mala but I knew I have to when I read the novel, I forgot we’re able to buy all your lecture but you were very generous to
Margaret and then he deserved it. And he did think that hanger happened in India before physics and he left there
and he became charted and statistician which was still a new thing. And then we think
of a whole lot of people who were trained entirely in the statistical
introduced, one of whom died last week namely Te En but there
were many others who were dead and that was all modern. Unfortunately, even Te En and others didn’t give him that much credit for it. Which is unfortunate but you do, you do. I knew Mahalanobis as a child when I was
four. There are lots of pictures of me with on one and a research shoulder
being carried around because he had the present in life in where was born in Santiniketan in West Bengal, British India. Oddly enough this professor of physics and about to be their inventor of sample of
some big theory and John became he became Tagor’s secretary. He spent two
years there and in that phase, I was their child but I don’t remember any
conversation with him, but I there’s lots of me on his shoulder. And then later on he had favorite team which is
different between subjective and objective probability. My
problem there was that I think the most important book on that subject is Kansas
Citizens of Probability, many ways I will agree is the best book he ever wrote. The
smaller position was similar to that that ultimately everything is subjective
probability in some sense. From frequency you can’t go to a probability without
some intervention of the mind but he was very keen on doing that. But the other
thing he was keen on doing is to go ahead and one of the penalties of it was
that the early favia fans went ahead without education and health care. And
that was a huge huge mistake. Were you worried about that at the time? I did
write something on that but on the other hand did I understand that I was making
there was a mistake for that reason. I did for some extent for the whole don’t
because of any originality but because of Smith. Because emphasized
again and again that the the most important expansional that you’ll get
out will come from human activity increase and education health care is
very important on that. So I did criticize on that what
that was really Smith thought applied to Marvin’s critique. So I alright, maybe this may be the last
topping but it may not. You’ve retained your Indian citizenship all your life,
yeah. You’ve never taken any other citizenship but some of us have. You’ve
written I think that this preserved in some ways your standing to write and
comment and think about Indian public affairs. You’ve written two wonderful
books with my co-author Jean Dreze. It’s very easy to write excellent book with Jean Dreze. I
know. I mean he writes the books and you get the credit. I’ll speak of meanness in him because I went on saying we have a very good division of labor. Jean does 99% of the work and I get 99% of the credit. One occasion to mistake I
said that Jean does 90% of the work and I did 90 percent of the credit. Someone
looked at me and said what happened to the other 9%? Jean is wonderful and but I we could talk a long time about Jean but I don’t really want
to do that. I want to talk about the world in which many of us feel of has taken a
difficult turn in the last few years and the India of today is surely not the
India that you’d worked and hoped for for much of your life just as those of
us who are living in America are deeply fearful of the liberal democracy in
which we flourished for the last 50 years. I suspect it’s a painful subject
for you but yeah but maybe you talk a little bit more about it. I know, one big difference is that, you can
become both British and American together. I can’t become,
because India does not allow dual citizenship. And I try to give a lecture
to my Prime Minister friend everyone you know which are the countries we don’t
allow that that’s India, China, Russia, and Japan. I mean, so there’s that. I mean I didn’t
want to lose my Indian citizenship and to some extent it has been made
easier by the Queen, because of the fact that the I would have felt very
deprived if I couldn’t for example vote in Brexit which I did. Because the voting
in Britain doesn’t go by citizenship but by being you’re being subject of the
Queen and the India census opted to be in Commonwealth though a Republic and has
a president who is the highest authority in the country.
But since it’s a member of the Commonwealth we’re treated as subjects
of the Queen. So I vote in British elections. I’m only now getting somehow
more involved in American elections and there is no Queen here so there is a
problem. But I voted in almost every election. I lived 40 years of my 85 years in
Britain and so I have that sense anyway right now I follow the Brexit news
with the greatest of interests which I think one of the most disastrous thing
that sensible people can take or facilitating it. So I think you’re avoiding talking about
Mr. Modi. Mr. Modi is, the best thing
that I can say about him is that is about possibly
about to lose election. He had done something which even Trump would find
difficult to see. I mean India was a secular country and to make it non secular in a
way and we will asking you whether you read v4 now actually it’s also. If your
father Hinduism, there are lots of really quite abstract extraordinarily
interesting ideas even in the Vedas you know from 15th century BC. But to come
on to the holiness of the cow, I mean you couldn’t think lower than that. I’m now going to be in all Indian troubles. Anytime I say something
like that I get about 600 attacks. It’s every day there’s so many interesting
things on Hinduism that Modi could have gone for and RSS and
they and they in the Hindu Turk could have gone for to go for things with
among cooler aspects of the sort. It’s really quite extraordinary and but it
actually kills people. A number of people were really killed. Trump may expel the journalist from
meeting but there at least for journalist who may have been killed for taking views
which are disliked by the government. Are you optimistic about the future? I mean
some of the things that scares some of us about Mr. Trump is that if Mr. Trump
loses the next election the forces which propelled Mr. Trump will not go away,
will be still part of America. Do you think this is reversible?
Well I think he is going to get quite a lot bad. There’s an article in the New York Review which discusses how bad has been and one
reason why in India this is India by the way, is that the institutional leadership
has capitulated in a way that the American institutional leadership has
not. And and the blue wave that we are seeing I believe will see something
similar to that in the election in April in India. But
meanwhile, nearly all Vice Chancellor are deeply prejudiced from what some Hindus of course you can get degrees on ancient Indian Aviation and such things. And you know
then we give an example, India had reason to be proud of having the oldest
university in the world Nalanda started in 5th century. It had
students coming from not only within India but China, Japan, Korea Thailand and Lybia a so on. And it had a
huge presence in the world and it was in nominally for this institution but it
was modest rather like the way Oxford University is Christian. So it
allowed I would think one of the student eating wrote the first comparative study
of Chinese and Indian Medical Systems. Serious comparison of that.
It’s a six chapter book but two of the chapters are on the subject. It really had
an enormous influence in the region and and Indians are very proud of. The East Asian summit in a period in the face of
cordiality suggested that they should revive it. The Government of India said
they would join that, I was asked to join and become the Chancellor which I said originally but then I accepted. And then they come
into India as we came clear that no money will come to Nalanda until the Chancellor is changed. So I did a deal because Giorgio
who was the foreign minister of Singapore who was with me in the vault and he
usually acted as my deputy I requested him whether he will take over and after
some reading he agreed and he became the Chancellor they loved it because I was
going away but the moment he’s become Chancellor he wanted to choose his own
vice chancellor then they said no. And then he kept on writing to them, saying
you have not replied to my letter. He didn’t get any further reply every day. This is the foreign
minister for the former foreign minister Singapore. And Singapore had come to
visit a fair amount of money so eventually he left also. And now
replaced by the chancellor who is a great expert I gather on the byproducts of the
medical and scientific value of byproducts of couch. And so if you were
to say how to take what was they would be 600 years earlier than Vilonia. Nalanda was destroyed by an attack from
Middle East. Before Cambridge was born just after Oxford was born, all that and the entire
history of of that education which thanks to the Chinese students not so
much Indians room is very well written up because they wrote in detail as to what
what the farm was about why they went to Nalanda. And now now that and this is like the
rest of the university system. When you see that similarly the
the Indian Council Cultural Relations similarly, in the Indian historical was
always called Indian history something, they’re all run by the government. They
have been a total capitulation in a way America haven’t had and Britain could
not have added. I don’t think any West European country could have had it. Whether Hungary and Poland can now have it I don’t know if it’s possible.
But these are the real fears so I think in the case of India, the elections are
totally important as to how to bring it back to some kind of a vanity. So in in
America I am NOT that pessimistic it’s because I think the American political
culture has proved itself to be much more robust than than India. Now we are
proud of the fact that India was the first non-western country to become fully Democratic. And if you go through the history, going back to the sixth century
BC, first international consultative decision group that was 6th century BC
the second was 5th century BC the biggest or third century BC there’s a
long history of democracy. But as thing and we have a verse from the very Empire,
I don’t think the institutions have the the gravity and the strength that say
Britain and America has. Well on that somber note, I think we have to close the
discussion. Yeah I think I’ll call on Yaw, for a vote of thanks at this point. I will be brief with my vote of thanks. I
just, I’m just impressed. I loved what I heard and for those of us who are in the
Academy doing all the you know nitty gritty very narrow things wasn’t it just
a great pleasure to see this broad sweep of economics, I mean it just makes me
love being in the Academy and learning and big round of applause please for all our speakers. Thank you again so much and also Tim, big
round of applause for Tim, putting it all together okay.
I thank the team DRI, Andrea, Kingsley our RA students, thanks Cybele and the
Provost office again. David Stasavage and the Dean’s office, Social Sciences,
thank you all for coming here on a Saturday afternoon and we’re not quite
done yet, there is some wonderful wine, fruit,
cheese and everything. We’re gonna be here for a little bit longer so we can
all interact, and thank you, bless you and hope to see you all again soon.
Thank you. You.

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