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a freedom framework for development

After explaining why he prefers negative to positive liberty, and defining “freedom,” Jean-Pierre Chauffour shares his conceptual framework for advancing human rights and development through the promotion of freedom:

If one agrees  with the idea that human nature is such as to allow most people,  regardless of capabilities and circumstances, to organize and promote   their lives, act creatively and productively, and advance themselves   through ingenuity and entrepreneurial savvy, one can then  draw important lessons in the field of political economy to understanding   and remedying poverty (Machan 2006a). Development  policies that promote and secure the (negative) individual right  to liberty and freedom would then provide the most appropriate  environment to unleash the potential of each human being to be  master of his or her own life and destiny.

In contrast, development policies that view human nature and  the conditions of social life as rendering most people victims of their  circumstances-that is, mostly passive entities who must be moved  via positive state actions in order to thrive and escape the poverty  trap-are not only unlikely to address the fundamental causes of  poverty (at best its immediate consequences) but may even inadvertently   perpetuate the very conditions of poverty they seek to address  in the first place (see discussion on development assistance in chapter  4). These two conceptions of human nature have historically led  to the two alternative political economy philosophies of classical  liberalism and welfare state egalitarianism, embodied in our contemporary era by Robert Nozick (1974) and John Rawls (1971), respectively.

In the same way that civil and political rights are about civil and political  liberties, economic, social, and cultural rights ought to focus first  and foremost on the protection of economic, social, and cultural  freedom. The key ingredients of economic freedom would include  personal choice, voluntary exchange (both domestically and internationally),   the freedom to compete, and protection of persons and  property. Institutions and policies that are consistent with economic  freedom would thus provide an infrastructure for voluntary and  free exchange (i.e., a market economy); a legal structure; a law  enforcement system that would not only put contracts into effect in  an evenhanded manner but also protect the property rights of owners,   including from governmental expropriation (e.g., through excessive   taxation and inflation); and a monetary arrangement that would  facilitate access to sound money. This would allow individuals to  be free to operate a business, invest earnings, and earn a living.

At a more conceptual level, the relation between human rights,  aid, and development is at the center of one’s conception of development.   Is development essentially a matter of entitlement and search  for equality of results (i.e., the right of peoples to receive the external  assistance they need for their development), or is development a  matter of empowerment and promotion of equal opportunities  (i.e., the right of each individual to pursue his or her own development)?   Although the UN’s current effort to double worldwide aid  flows can be seen as part of a pattern to reinvent foreign aid largely  along the same old lines many bilateral donors and multilateral  development agencies have started to reformulate their relationships  with recipient governments in focusing primarily on increasing the  effectiveness of aid, including via a more appropriate framework  for empowering people through the promotion and protection of  economic freedom and civil and political rights institutions .

In line with Armatya Sen (1999), if human rights are to be  the primary end and the principal means of development, as he  views the expansion of freedom in this light, they ought to be concerned   with the removal of substantial unfreedoms that leave people  with little choice and opportunity for exercising their reasoned  agency.

From an economic standpoint, the proposition is that the extent  to which human interaction in society is formed around the concept  of freedom constitutes the ultimate determinant of development, the  ultimate cause of why economic agents actually accumulate, create, and invent. Although a general theory of economic growth continues  to elude the economist profession,’ the idea that differences in societies’   institutional arrangements are the fundamental cause of differences   in economic performance has gained enormous momentum in  recent years. Since the seminal work of Nobel Prize winner Douglass  North, it has become clear that, while factor accumulation, innovation,   and technological progress explain the mechanics of economic  growth, they are not the causes of growth, they are growth (North  and Thomas 1973). To pinpoint the ultimate determinants of growth,  one needs to push the question back one step further and ask why  human accumulation and innovation advance at different rates in  different countries or groups of countries.

Although the growing  consensus is that the answer has to do with differences in institutions,  some have tried to push the issue back even further to ask why  institutions differ across countries in the first place. For instance,  economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (2004), from MIT  and Harvard University, suggest that political institutions and the  distribution of resources are the fundamental determinants of institutions   and therefore of growth. Pushing the issue back even more,  the proposition in this book is that the extent to which human  interaction in society is shaped by freedom determines the norms,  value, and nature of institutions and constitutes the ultimate determinant   of growth.

Development as freedom is a powerful economic paradigm.’ It  elevates the process of development to the exercise of the human  right to freedom. By themselves, the pieces of the paradigm are  straightforward: first, it emphasizes the key role played by economic  freedom in achieving sustainable development; second, it takes into  account all the other dimensions of individual freedom (i.e., social,  cultural, civil, and political) as also being part of the economic arena  and mutually supporting economic freedom; and third, it limits the  role of the state to that of an effective guardian, enforcer, and promoter   of individual freedom in all its dimensions. In contrast to the  right to development as defined and elaborated within the United  Nations system in terms of claims on nation-states and on the  broader international community, the proposed macroeconomic paradigm   aims at placing the human being in charge of his own development   in a unified and coherent system of thought.


Filed under: General Welfare, Philosophy,

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