human development

Andrew Gelman has a whole series of posts about the Human Development Index, which, as he points out, effectively equates development with income.

Leon Kass’s recent Jefferson Lecture serves as a welcome reminder that there are other kinds of “development.” Which is not to say that the monetary kind doesn't matter; only that it’s not the whole story of what it means to be human and what it means to be developed. Kass:

In summer 1965, interrupting my research, Amy and I went to Mississippi to do civil rights work. We lived with a farmer couple in rural Holmes County, in a house with no telephone, hot water, or indoor toilet. We visited many families in the community, participated in their activities, and helped with voter registration and other efforts to encourage the people to organize themselves in defense of their rights. This deeply moving experience changed my life, but not in the way I expected.

For on returning to Cambridge, I was nagged by a disparity I could not explain between the uneducated, poor black farmers in Mississippi and many of my privileged, highly educated graduate student friends at Harvard. A man of the left, I had unthinkingly held the Enlightenment view of the close connection between intellectual and moral virtue: education and progress in science and technology would overcome superstition, poverty, and misery, allowing human beings to become at last the morally superior creatures that only nature’s stinginess and religious or social oppression had kept them from being. Yet in Mississippi I saw people living honorably in perilous and meager circumstances, many of them illiterate, but sustained by religion, extended family, and community attachment, and by the pride of honest farming and homemaking. Indeed, they seemed to display more integrity, decency, and strength of character, and less self-absorption and self-indulgence, than did many of my high-minded Harvard friends who shared my progressive opinions. How could this be?