Development is an unavoidably normative concept. Even the standard economic conception of development as an increase in GDP per capita involves a normative claim, one that does not stand up well under scrutiny. Further, there are many competing claims about what matters in development. Acknowledging this reality, the field of development ethics attempts to provide appropriate structures for normative evaluations in development policy.1 Development ethics identifies different approaches to outcomes assessment, allowing analysts to determine whether a development situation has improved or worsened. It is therefore both a necessary and a useful area of inquiry in development policy.

Broadly speaking, we can consider three alternative approaches to development ethics.2 The growth or gross domestic product (GDP) perspective emphasizes growth in GDP per capita as the means to increase household consumption levels and reduce income...

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