Wednesday, March 02, 2005 Amartya Sen takes it on the chin

March 2nd

this made my day! talks about how amartya sen gets his comeuppance. he pontificated once too often about his dream world, china! you should read the readers' responses, too.

sen does talk through his hat quite a lot. however, he is pretty good at finding wives and girlfriends. his latest wife, a rothschild heiress, has enabled him to hobnob with the powers that be in europe and america.

btw, in "Annie Hall", woody allen actually says to the camera: "if only life were like that!" -- the wsj quote is slightly off. it's an utterly delicious moment when an unbearable showoff gets his well-deserved come-uppance. it's worth seeing the movie just for that segment, even though it is a great movie in general.


An 'Annie Hall' Moment
A Nobel Prize-winning economist spouts off, and a Chinese survivor sets him straight.

Monday, February 21, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

In the Woody Allen movie "Annie Hall," a character is sounding off about the Canadian media theorist Marshall MacLuhan when the subject himself appears and says: "Excuse me, I'm Marshall MacLuhan. You know nothing of my work." Woody Allen then turns to the audience and asks, "don't you wish life were like that?"

In Hong Kong last week it was Nobel Prize economist Amartya Sen doing the sounding off, praising the state medical system in China under the Cultural Revolution. Mr. Sen asserted that Maoist China had actually made great strides in medicine, bringing down child mortality rates and prolonging life expectancy. Moving to a privatized system was making the system less fair and efficient, said the Nobel laureate, who's behind many U.N. economic works, such as the much-heralded "Human Development Index."

To back up his remarkable claim, Mr. Sen said that the rate of growth in life expectancy in China was slowing down. Or at least it was doing so compared to India, which is catching up with China in life expectancy. "The gap between India and China has gone from 14 years to seven [since 1979] because of moving from a Canada-like system to a U.S. like system," said Mr. Sen, adding that he thought this change by China was a mistake.

But, alas, there was someone in the audience who actually had lived through the Cultural Revolution in China, and had been one of Mao's "barefoot doctors." He didn't see things quite the same way as Mr. Sen. In fact, he said the comments had quite surprised him.

"I observed with my own eyes the total absence of medicine in some parts of China. The system was totally unsustainable. We used to admire India," said Weijian Shan, now a banker in Hong Kong. Mr. Shan then added an anecdote that tickled the audience, telling how when he first visited Taiwan in the 1980s and saw young medical school graduates serving in the countryside, he thought to himself, "China ought to copy Taiwan."

Mr. Shan added, about Mao's medicine, "If they had made the system optional, nobody would have opted for it."

Mr. Sen might have thought he was going to have an easy audience. He was, after all, introduced by a local American resident--a member of Democrats Abroad--who praised his work as something President Bush should read, so he would learn that supporting freedom required more than just sending in the Marines.

And indeed, after Mr. Sen's observations--NATO is partly responsible for Third World debt and for turning back Africa's democratic evolution; more people died of AIDS on Sept. 11, 2001, than in the terrorist attack; Social Security, the U.S. pension system, is not at a crisis point--it seemed that it was going to be a one-sided afternoon.

Except for the man in the audience who actually had lived through that glorious Maoist era, and who provided the Annie Hall moment.


Indidoc said...

Serves Sen absolutely right.I really wish at times that media shouldnt fawn or go ballistic on a neoliberal.If thats the fancy tag that he deserves..At best a mediocre technocrat. At worse an economist!I wonder when would Indians learn to seperate chaff from the grain.

Gameboys said...


It is a national shame that the FM, P Chidambaram, wanted India to emulate China and he said this on the floor of the Parliament, no less. Here is an example of how the Chinese communists look at India and how they ridiculed PC in effect:

This 'news report' says there are 800 million poor people in India! One wonders how Xinhua came up with that figure...and by the same token, how many poor people does China have? 1 billion, I'm sure. There's no need for India to cry over the FDI China is receiving. For all we know, China is increasingly desperately dependent on Western economies.

Thanks to you and all those at Rediff who have been working tirelessly to expose Chinese treachery. This is one area I absolutely I agree with you!