I enjoyed a little book of essays by Amartya Sen, The Country of First Boys. This is a collection of reprints from articles in The Little Magazine in the early 2010s. Collections of this kind tend to be slightly repetitive because columnists have certain preoccupations they circle back to (certainly including me!). In this case, it is democracy and freedom, the importance of free speech in enabling public reasoning, identity, gender inequalities, and of course development, education and poverty. On the other hand, it is a highly accessible and enjoyable summary of some of Sen’s work.

Some points leapt out at me (reflecting my own current preoccupations). One was the example of Kerala, which has become one of the highest per capita income states in India, having been one of the poorest. Universal and good education and healthcare were a key part of its development. “Central to this understanding is the critical importance of social infrastructre in facilitating economic growth,” Sen writes (pxlix). “The role of infrastructure – physical and social – in economic performance has been a neglected subject in policymaking.” Another point was the role of ‘countervailing powers’ in ownership – a multiplicity of private owners (aka competition) but also other models – co-operatives, public ownership, independent bodies. Diversity of organisation rather than just diversity of views. This in the context of media, but – having been business model agnostic – I now think it makes for healthier competition in any market to get away from monocultures.

Anyway, a nice book for summer evenings reading in the late sunshine.

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