Posted by: secretperson | May 27, 2010

Freedom of Speech Won’t Feed my Children

Funny. I was just listening today to the Manic Street Preachers’ song entitled ‘Freedom of speech won’t feed my children’ and thinking, yeah, it’s probably not number one priority if you’re starving in Africa, but countries with freedom of speech tend to do better at feeding people too.

And what should I see on an Englishman’s Castle this evening? Not one, not two, but three quotes pointing out the benefits of free speech and democracy to feeding people.

A 1 percent increase in newspaper circulation is associated with a 2.4 percent increase in public food distribution and a 5.5 percent increase in calamity relief expenditures. Greater political competition is associated with higher levels of public food distribution. Public food distribution is also higher in election and pre-election years. In addition, government is also more responsive to a given shock when newspaper circulation is higher. That is, when food production falls or flood damage occurs governments increase food distribution and calamity relief more in states where newspaper circulation is higher.

T Besley, R Burgess, The political economy of government responsiveness: Theory and evidence from India

…no famine has taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy – be it economically rich (as in Western Europe or North America) or relatively poor (as in post independence India, or Botswana or Zimbabwe.

Amartya Sen. 2001. Development as Freedom. p.16

Perhaps the most important reform that can contribute to the elimination of famines, in Africa as well as in Asia, is the enhancement of democratic practice, unfettered newspapers and – more generally – adversarial politics.

Amartya Sen. 1990. Public Action to Remedy Hunger.

Well said, and well selected Englishman.



  1. Great song spot – wish I had thought of it…

  2. The spot was pure coincidence I claim no real credit! I’m a big Manics fan, just can’t say I often agree with them politically.

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