Sunday, 19 April 2015

Economic values and the value of lives

There's an article in the Rwandan New Times entitled "Is the life of an African of no value in this day and age?".  The article describes how Africa's economy is improving but the value of African lives isn't.  The author mentions deaths of African migrants drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, election-linked violence in Burundi, and violence against foreigners in South Africa.

The article's topic is one seen in development theory.  Approaches to development that are based mainly on growth in national or personal income have been criticised because they do not necessarily imply that people will get happier or that the extra income will be worthwhile in some sense or other.  While people often acknowledge the theoretical validity of the criticism, in practice the economic growth approach seems to be broadly preferred among many Africans in positions of leadership.

The article identifies the violence in South Africa as being of particular note, and it is in South Africa where the "money isn't happiness" claim seems to have most evidence.  South Africa is quite rich, in many ways successful, and the government doesn't actively try to hurt its own or neighbouring citizens, but it is socially and economically divided; it is a plausible future for some African countries in twenty or thirty years.  The people and leaders in these countries could nudge their development course towards slightly greater social and economic inclusion.

Rest in peace to the 700 African migrants who died yesterday trying to get to Europe.

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