Amartya Sen teaches economics and philosophy at Harvard. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1998. (January 2017)


The Rules of the Game: A New Electoral System

‘The Electoral Vote: Now Let Us Look at It from Another Point of View’; illustration by Thomas Nast, 1876
Americans have been using essentially the same rules to elect presidents since the beginning of the Republic. These rules are deeply flawed. There are several remedies. Perhaps in order of increasing chance of adoption, they are: (1) to elect the president by the national popular vote instead of the Electoral College; (2) to choose the winner in the general election according to the preferences of a majority of voters rather than a mere plurality, either nationally or by state; and, easiest of all, (3) to substitute majority for plurality rule in state primaries.

India’s Women: The Mixed Truth

Women shielding themselves from a dust storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983; photograph by Steve McCurry from his book Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs, which includes fourteen of his photo stories from India, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and other countries, along with essays about his work and ephemera from his personal archive. It has just been published by Phaidon.
Public anger at gender inequality in India must be seen as an important—and long-overdue—social development, and it can certainly help in remedying the persistent inequalities from which Indian women suffer. It is, however, very important to understand the nature of female disadvantage in India, which can take many different forms. If the lack of safety of women is one aspect of it, the old phenomenon of “boy preference” in family decisions is surely another. There is, moreover, strong evidence that the economic and social options open to women are significantly fewer than those available to men.

Quality of Life: India vs. China

Girls in a classroom in the Indian model village of Ralegan Siddhi, northeast of Pune, Maharashtra, 2006
The rate of economic growth in India is steadily rising, and there is much speculation about whether and when India may catch up with and surpass China’s growth rate. Despite the evident excitement that this subject seems to cause in India and abroad, it is surely rather silly to be obsessed about India’s overtaking China in the rate of growth of GNP, while not comparing India with China in other respects, like education, basic health, or life expectancy. Economic growth can, of course, be enormously helpful in advancing living standards and in battling poverty. But there is little cause for taking the growth of GNP to be an end in itself, rather than seeing it as an important means for achieving things we value.