Development as Flourishing

Can development economics move beyond its obsession with income to become truly human-centered?

Ernesta Orlovaitė
4 min readNov 28, 2021

Development, at its heart, is an endeavour to better the lives of humans. The pursuit of a good life has fascinated thinkers for millennia, and yet what a good life looks like is as heatedly debated today as it was in the time of Aristotle.

Most philosophers would agree on one thing: you can’t simply buy happiness.

This is not how Aristotle would define happiness. Source: The Awkward Yeti.

Most economists would retort that everything is for sale. Why try and measure happiness when you can count money instead?

Economists dominate mainstream debates on development, both in policy circles and in academia. Although the discipline has broadened its interests considerably since Robert Lucas equated economic development with “the observed pattern, across countries and across time, in levels and rates of growth of per capita income”, the ultimate objective of economics is hitherto often defined in monetary terms. And yet Simon Kuznets, one of the architects of Gross Domestic Product, wrote nearly a century ago that the “welfare of a nation can … scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income”.

The challenge of finding an alternative to economic growth has been accepted by numerous thinkers within and outside…



Ernesta Orlovaitė

Bookworm (but I sometimes go on real adventures) · Obsessive thinker · Inconsistent writer · “You live and learn. At any rate, you live.” — Douglas Adams