Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Asafa Jalata

Committee Members

Daryll E. Ray, Neal Shover, William M. Park, Damayanti N. Banerjee


For the last 46 years, the countries of the world have tried to reduce the number of chronically hungry people. Despite all the efforts, the numbers have barely budged from the over 850 million people who were chronically hungry in 1974 until the 2007-2009 food price crisis, when the numbers increased to over 1.02 billion. The blame for this situation has variously been put on bad governance, the lack of adequate market reforms, the market reforms that were imposed on developing nations, and globalization. Food, like other products in this globalized world, is allocated using the market system. One likely place to look for the cause of continuing hunger is at the assumptions that underlie the market system, in particular the assumption of non-coerciveness. This assumption asserts that the market transaction—in this case for food—is freely entered into by both the buyer and the seller and that either can refuse to enter into the transaction if it is not to their advantage. After looking at the traditional understanding of coerciveness in economics, this dissertation examines the logic system of economics concluding that the issue of non-coerciveness is a moral issue, and the argument of Frank Knight that the question of non-coerciveness is an issue of ethics. Using the work of Michael Keeley, this paper concludes that broadly accepted human rights is the best possible criterion for determining whether or not the aggregate food market is non-coercive. If the human right to food is abridged then it can be said that the aggregate food market is coercive and the assumption of non-coerciveness for the aggregate food market does not hold. With 1.02 billion people chronically hungry, 1/6 of humanity, it is clear that the right to food has been abridged and the aggregate food market is coercive. To overcome chronic hunger and enforce the right to food, governments, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations are going to have to supplement markets with non-market measures. The dissertation concludes with a number of recommendations for non-market measures that can be taken to ensure that all people enjoy the right to food.

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