In the rst few classes we talked a little about the capability
approach. The following questions are based on those concepts. Note
part 2 below is optional.
1. A common feature of famines, ranging from those in nineteenth
century India to the more recent ones in Sudan and Ethiopia, was
that they all took place even though there was no decline in the
food-grain availability per capita in those countries. How does
one explain this anomaly?
2. (Extra Credit) Consider an economy with heterogeneous agents.
Each agent is indexed by the letter i. Assume that each agent owns
a commodity bundle. We dene a person’s achieved functioning as bi =
fi(c(xi)) i.e. bi shows you what an agent actually ends up being or
doing. Explain what c and fi express in the context of the
capability approach. Try and come up with a mathematical denition
of an agent’s /capability” in this context.
3. One popular way of measuring a society’s well being is to
analyse utilities of individuals in the society. Two possible ways
of measuring well being based on utilities are: USociety = X N i=1
ui where i = 1; 2; :::N
(1) and USociety = min(u1; u2::::un)
(2)The rst measure adds up individual utilities (ui) across the
entire society. The other measure uses a minimum function to do the
same. Interpret these two measures.
Criticise both these measures using the capabilities