Famine Mortality, Rational Political Inactivity, and International Food AidDierdre McCloskey a long time ago had an article about the "it is possible" vein of theory in economic theorizing... She wasn't impressed.
University of Essex - Department of Government
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
May 1, 2008
LSE PSPE Working Paper No. 2
Famine mortality is preventable by government action and yet some famines kill. We develop a political theory of famine mortality based on the selectorate theory of Bueno de Mesquita et al. (2002, 2003). We argue that it can be politically rational for a government, democratic or not, to remain inactive in the face of severe famine threat. We derive the testable hypotheses that famine mortality is possible in democracies, but likely to be lower than in autocracies. Moreover, a larger share of people being affected by famine relative to population size together with large quantities of international food aid being available will lower mortality in both regime types, but more so in democracies.
While I'm idly speculating, I wonder which paper came first, the genocide one or the famine one... and did someone really think that a formal model was needed to "prove the possibility" of the intuition that all else constant if those affected by famine are less like you politically, and their famine doesn't affect your pocketbook, then you'll be less likely to care....