For Larger Freedom: Pursuit of Peace in Sri Lanka

Last year the President of Sri Lanka, Chanrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, gave a very good speech at the Asia Society, about which I wrote in my very first Monday Musing: Cake Theory and Sri Lanka’s President. The president is again in town for the UN Summit, and I had the pleasure of meeting her again last night, again at the Asia Society, and again, she delivered an excellent speech. Imagine my pleasant surprise, when halfway through the speech, after speaking of John Rawls and Amartya Sen, she referred to my Monday Musing column:

ChandrikaAnd equal civil and political rights are required for people to have equal access to healthcare. The political philosopher John Rawls captures this point by talking not just about equal basic liberties but about the equal worth of basic liberties. Similarly, Professor Amartya Sen refers to “Development as Freedom” in order to emphasize that development is not simply to increase growth rates in order to increase per capita income and purchase more goods, but to improve health, education, housing, so that people will have improved quality of life.

But it is not just political philosophers who are concerned about the practical implications of treating people as equals. We have interesting developments in what is called “game theory” among economists that develops mathematical models for dealing with the technical challenges of equal division of goods among “n” persons in day to day situations. In a friendly critique of the talk I gave last year at the Asia Society, a web blog – pointed out some of these important technical advances in conflict resolution, curiously known as cake theory, because these models use cake cutting as a metaphor for dividing goods equally.

Read the rest of the speech here.