Mr. Sen’s major finding is striking: The world’s worst famines are not caused by crop failure; they are caused by faulty political systems that prevent the market from correcting itself. Relatively minor agricultural disturbances become catastrophes because imports are not allowed, or prices are not allowed to rise, or farmers are not allowed to grow alternative crops, or politics in some other way interferes with the market’s normal ability to correct itself. He writes, “[Famines] have never materialized in any country that is independent, that goes to elections regularly, that has opposition parties to voice criticisms and that permits newspapers to report freely and question the wisdom of government policies without extensive censorship.” China had the largest recorded famine in history; thirty million people died as the result of the failed Great Leap Forward in 1958-61. India has not had a famine since independence in 1947.
Naked Economics - Charles Wheelan