The U.N.´s human development approach was, supposedly, from that point on to be focused on people and their opportunities and choices.
In 1990 the first Human Development Report introduced what was supposed to be a new human development approach for advancing human wellbeing. Human development was to be understood as being about expanding the richness of human life, rather than just economic riches. The U.N.’s human development approach was, supposedly, from that point on to be focused on people and their opportunities and choices.
Human development became an especially popular term after Amartya Sen´s famous 1999 work Development as Freedom. Sen would go on to become “paramount” in the development of future human development reports published by the U.N.. The actual founder of the U.N.’s Human Development report is Mahbub ul Haq, who came to be a close associate on this issue with Amartya Sen. According to Helen Clark in 2010, then a highly placed U.N. development official:
Their concept has guided more than 20 years of global Human Development Reports, more than 600 National Human Development Reports—all researched, written and published in their respective countries—as well as the many provocative regionally focused reports supported by UNDP’s regional bureaus.
The problem is that the U.N. has seemingly forgot the importance that Sen attached to freedom as the goal, ways and means to development. According to Sen´s original thesis, “freedom is both the primary end and the principal means of development”.
The U.N. now regularly scores authoritarian regimes higher than more liberal regimes on human development, which seems absurd, given the thesis of “development as freedom”. A few cases should suffice to drive home the perversity of the U.N.’s scoring on Human Development. China, Cuba, Libya, Vietnam, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran and Iraq are all authoritarian regimes (not free), according to Freedom House, and yet every single one of them scores higher than Guatemala (partly free) on Human Development. Russia does as well.
If freedom were central to the concept of Human Development to the U.N., a “not free” classification for a country should also earn it a “not developed” classification. That nothing like this even remotely happens is a good indicator of the low priority that the U.N. places on liberty and human dignity in its country evaluations.
What is going on at the U.N.?
The U.N. is the central organization of the liberal world order that the U.S. whose creation the U.S. led, fostered and nurtured in the aftermath of World War II. Its original mission was to promote a democratic peace among nations, during the second democratic wave that occurred on a global scale during the beginnings of the Cold War. Bolstered byAmerica´s aggressive military defense against communist aggression worldwide, this liberal world order based on republican democracy, markets and commerce became a spectacular example of successful statecraft. The postwar era became characterized by the spread of production, peace and prosperity the likes of which humankind had never before experienced.
Due to the decadence of riches, the West lost its way. After the 1960s, the West came to be governed by generations of elite thinkers completely alien to the notions sacrifice, opportunity costs, etc. Led by moral relativists, the West succumbed to its own political correctness, and came to reject the notion of the superiority of capitalism. Gallup reported that Democrats, in particular, view socialism more favorably than capitalism. The State Dept., in particular, has become a hotbed of anti-Western progressivism. (here, here, and here)
The U.S. itself lost its bedrock values based on individual liberty versus collective rights. Without U.S. leadership, which was atypical in its clear content and muscular style during the Cold War, the U.S. not only lost the West, but led it astray. Civilizations, it turns out, die from suicide, not homicide.
Due to the loss of western confidence, the countries of the developing world that pay attention to modern Western “experts” are now paying a high price in sacrificed opportunities. The West now pushes for an ahistorical creation of welfare states in the developing world, at precisely the wrong point in their developmental path. Before the jargon of Human Development became popular, the academic jargon referenced industrialization, and industrialized and non-industrialized countries.
This was a better approach, as it laid the path clear. Growth causes prosperity, and with prosperity come social and political changes that are more conducive to political liberalization. What the Western world order tries to do now is impose radical institutional change, according to its own politically correct dictates, even if that comes at the expense of economic growth and the positive changes that growth can eventually produce.
Several case studies support the growth-first thesis. In the last decades, the developing countries that have grown their industrial sectors the most, have increased their G.D.P. per capita the most. Asia has several exemplary cases.
As the West lost its confidence in democratic capitalism, unelected bureaucrats enamored of statist policies directed not at promoting liberty, but equality, came to dominate the international organizations underpinning the liberal world order. The U.N., the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund are now all led by “experts” who put the state above people. Even the World Economic Forum, once a referent on global competitiveness has turned decidedly statist and collectivist in its outlook on development.
The best thing that developing countries like Guatemala can do is to ignore the advice of the West, and look east, to China. China is an example of a country that prioritizes economic growth, without politically correct adjectivesdealing with such nonsensical terms as equity, environment, and gender. China is all about capital accumulation. That will change China, and the world.
What the authoritarian leaders of China do not understand is that the growth they are creating will be the beginning of China´s true greatness, and the end of them.
Getting back to Guatemala, she already has a headstart on China on republican democracy. Getting markets right is now just a matter of political will, and ignoring the Western “experts”. If Guatemala can return to the rates of growth in industry (6%) and G.D.P. (5%) that she was experiencing in the Sixties and Seventies, that would be a boon to her developmental goals, and to U.S. national security. American experts notwithstanding.