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Sen on Famine

October 23, 1998

While it is heartening to see an economist who actually cares about people and the poor, Amartya Sen still manages to perpetuate some important misconceptions about the politics of famine (Commentary, Oct. 16). There have been famine conditions in the U.S., especially on Native American reservations in the 19th and early 20th century. Chronic hunger is still a widespread problem in the U.S. today. Sen also mistakenly attributes the lack of famine in the First World to our democratic governments and relatively free press. In the U.S., however, people are increasingly realizing that both our political parties pledge allegiance to those with money and power, including the multinational corporations that own our "relatively free" press.

The ability of the First World to avoid famines on the scale of those in the Third World is actually tied to the plunder of the Third World via First World military and free-market interventions. In other words, we don't really have famine because we are wealthy. We are wealthy because we exploit Third World labor and resources. Thus, poor farmers in South America, for example, are forced to grow flowers on their land for the global market instead of food for themselves. This may be good for business, but it is not good for people.

TONY SAMARA

Santa Barbara

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