Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

Estimating an Ethical Index of Human Wellbeing

Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

Estimating an Ethical Index of Human Wellbeing

Article excerpt


A theory of strongly endogenous interactive relationship in participatory development is expounded through the use of a class of models of complementarities between selected variables representing their underlying agencies. Such a model is referred to as circular causation approach and resembles the social causation theory propounded by Gunnar Myrdal. The paper sets up the theoretical groundwork of circular causation in the context of development sustainability by virtue of estimating and simulating quantitative policy-theoretic approach that is applied to the exemplary problem of population and economic growth contra the neoclassical stand on their marginal substitution in population versus growth paradigm. Thus out of studying the theoretical and quantitative policy-theoretic perspective of the learning type endogenous model of development participation between variables and their agencies the ethical index is established. The participatory process of inter-variable complementarities between the selected variables conveys the substantive idea of development sustainability. The resulting functional objective criterion then represents the human wellbeing index. Several of the neoclassical theories as of the immserization theory of economic growth principally are critically examined.

JEL Classification: O53, E13, C15, C18, J10

Keywords: economic growth; endogenous growth theory; wellbeing and circular causation simulation

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


In recent times several ethical, social and development indexes have been prescribed in the literature. Among these are the human development index, the gender empowerment index, poverty index, and the millennium development goals that can be translated into an index of composite goals. Of late there are the happiness index and the corruption index that are studied in connection with the social and ethical dimensions of development. Professor Amartya Sen (1999, 1987) following Dasgupta (1982) have formulated their wellbeing indexes that are different from the so-called objective function of neoclassical welfare economics. The principal idea underlying the wellbeing indexes so established is to examine the deontological consequences of ethical choices in society at large. Likewise, the control over commodities that empower and enable target groups in society, thus increasing their capabilities has been studied. In this regard wellbeing is defined as an index that takes a specific form (1999, p. 18)1

While the functioning concept of commodities-based idea of wellbeing forms a richly explanatory body of literature, yet the sheer formulation of other indexes mentioned above are not explanatory ones. They form simply measurements of ranks of wellbeing gained by the underlying performance on x-variables, such as levels of mortality rates, education at different levels, Gross Domestic Product per capita, and availability of adequate health conditions, diet and security. As an example, while implying the same problem with all other numerical forms of indexes, we consider here a criticism of the aggregation (compounding) method used in the estimation of HDI and similar indexes.

The HDI is estimated by the variables, GDP per capita (adjusted income per capita in purchasing power of parity), life expectancy at birth, adult literacy rate and total enrolment ratio. In such estimation for the sake of ranking of HDI, no causal relations are studied between the given variables, which otherwise could explain how the variables interact in a system of explanatory relations to finally enter the HDI ranks (Demarting, 1999). Underlying such interactive consequences between variables is the importance of studying the micro-foundation of development theory. Ethics, choices, culture and institutions form some such micro-foundational factors that aggregate by relational causation into the macroeconomic level, which form the factors of sustainable development. …

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