Human Lives Over Profits

  • 2% of the global population are homeless and 20% lack adequate housing. 
  • Informal sector employs up to 60% of the working population globally and 90% in India.
  • 35% of the people across the globe lack access to sanitation. According to UNICEF, even prior to COVID-19, diseases directly linked to lack of safe water killed 1,400 children under five every day, globally over half a million a year.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.2 million lives are lost annually due to air pollution. It is a choice between 4.2 million lives and the marginal returns from industries choosing polluting vs. non-polluting technologies. 
  • Economics is about choices, a study of ‘human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means’. Trade-offs are central to these choices. On the one hand: 4.2 million, 0.5 million, 1,15,000 (and counting) lives. On the other: lower GDP rates, more expensive technologies, higher fiscal deficits. Such comparisons might not pass our usual aesthetic standards. But this pandemic will test our imagination. Binaries between left and right are collapsing.
  • It is time to shift from indices of economic growth and speed (such as rates of GDP growth) to those that build on lives and living conditions. 
  • The Human Development Index measures life expectancies as a proxy for long and healthy lives, education and national incomes per capita. The Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index builds on capabilities, captured through health, education and living standards. The difference between standard economic targets and these welfare-based indices is their clear focus on lives over profits.
  • In Netflix’s new dystopian offering, The Platform, inmates are randomly assigned a level in a giant vertical tower. Food passes through a central chute from top to bottom. If the prisoners at every level took their reasonable share, there would be enough for everyone. That never happens, and those at the lower levels are forced to adopt brutal strategies to stay alive. This is a harsh representation of our economies. Maybe too harsh. 
  • The undeniable fact is that we do not live in separate worlds. We inhabit a building with overlapping loops, where our rooms vary in size and comfort but are all linked.

Practice Question: The difference between standard economic targets and these welfare-based indices is their clear focus on lives over profits. Do you agree? Give reasons. – 250 words.

Source: The Hindu

Categories: POINT IAS

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