In summarizing the discussion, it is convenient
to divide the errors exposed into those that refute the whole of Sen's thesis
and those that refute only part of it. Each of the following errors is,
by itself, fatal to Sen's whole thesis. If any one of them is accepted then
his whole thesis must be rejected. It is not, of course, possible to argue
in economics that his theory may be right but his facts are wrong.
- Production statistics are not accurate to within
+/- 50%, and the difference between them (which Sen relies on) is only
accurate to +/- 3000%.
- Sen's assumption of zero carryover conflicts
with all available evidence.
- Sen's production and import figures do not prove
his point that there was food available in 1943, but exactly the opposite.
- Apart from the unreliable production statistics,
all evidence (including that on speculation and inflation) points to the
fact that a) there was a short crop and b) there was a shortage.
- If changed distribution caused the famine, some
groups of the population ate between two and six times as much as usual
and paid between four and 20 times as much as usual to do so. It can be
proved both logically and statistically that they did not.
- The actions of the government of Bengal were
those Sen would recommend. Their failure to have any effect proves the
misdiagnosis, and my prediction of the effect of the misdiagnosis.
- There are repeated misstatements and misquotations
from his sources - on the indifferent crop', on his conservative figures,
on the number of people covered by relief schemes, on the actions of the
government of Bengal, on the Famine Commission's support for his statements
about speculation and hoarding, on the rice denial policy, on the size
of other famines and on Mahalanobis, Mukkerjee and Ghosh's statistics for
instance. In addition, the evidence presented is selective. Taken together
they cast the gravest doubt on his rigour and reliability.
The following points taken individually do not
disprove the theory as a whole, but only individual hypotheses:
- On inflation: Sen presents no theoretical explanation
of an improbable hypothesis; the evidence he does present is incorrect;
and other evidence indicates a shortage. Government procurement plus a
shortage is the best explanation of the enormous price rises.
- On speculation: Sen presents no theoretical explanation;
his thesis conflicts with accepted theory; and his thesis conflicts with
the evidence. The evidence plus accepted theory suggests a shortage.
- On hoarding: Sen presents no theoretical model
and the facts are against him.
- Changes in purchasing power are more likely to
be the effect rather than the cause of the famine.
- Imports were unnecessary under Sen's thesis.
- The boat denial policy did not reduce aggregate
supply of rice. Failures in regional distribution are irrelevant to Sen's
- Sen's hypothesis and facts on the rice denial
policy are contradicted by his sources. If anything, the policy increased
It has not been the aim of this paper to appraise
Sen's entitlement theory. It should be noted, however, that even in the
hands of its originator it is apparently incapable of detecting the many
contradictions in the model presented or the many factual errors. Modern
marketing theory, on the other hand, exposes the errors and contradictions
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