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Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--And How We Can Improve the World Even More Paperback – December 4, 2012


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Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--And How We Can Improve the World Even More + Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty + The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046503103X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031030
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Jeni Klugman, Director and Lead Author, Human Development Report, United Nations Development Programme
“This book is an important and welcome counterweight to much of the doom and gloom that pervades popular and policy discussions about Africa.  It makes important contributions in documenting the major advances in aspects of human development that have intrinsic value—health, knowledge and empowerment—that have been experienced by people in the poorest parts of the world, drawing attention to the role of ideas and innovation.   Yet Charles Kenny does not shy away from the fact that, as underlined by the 2010 Human Development Report, not all good things go together.  The extent of poverty and inequality, including but not only in terms of incomes but other dimensions of well being, remains a major concern.  There are important implications for policy makers in developing countries, and the basic message of realistic optimism should inform all those interested in development assistance and ways to sustain progress in the future.”

William Easterly, Professor of Economics at New York University and author of The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good and The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics 
“Gloom and doom have long been the default view of global poverty. It would take a clear-eyed and courageous researcher to show that the orthodox viewpoint is wrong. Such a researcher has finally appeared in Charles Kenny, who shows convincingly that most trends in human well-being worldwide, and region by region, are happily, dramatically positive. Read this delightful book and you will never look at global economic development the same way again.”
 
Tyler Cowen, Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics, George Mason University
“Charles Kenny is one of the best and deepest writers on economic growth and its relationship to quality of life in the modern world.  This book represents the pinnacle of his thought.”
 
Felix Salmon, finance blogger for Reuters
“This nuanced and brilliant book is a must-read for anybody who wants to understand the complexity of development. Kenny doesn’t traffic in trite or facile diagnoses or solutions; instead, he compellingly lays out both the obstacles to success and the good reasons to be hopeful. I learned more from this book than from any other book I’ve ever read: it’s chock-full of important facts, corralled masterfully. Enjoy, and be illuminated!”
 
Nancy Birdsall, President of the Center for Global Development
Getting Better is a wonderful book: a great read, a compelling argument, and what will be a controversial bottom line – that growth is not after all necessary for poverty reduction.  In a surprising riposte to GDP-focused economists and aid skeptics, Charles Kenny brings readers not just Malthus, Arthur Lewis, Sen and Sachs, but Kipling, Tolstoy, and the unfortunate Mungo Park.  Here is a thoughtful and sweeping take on what we don’t know about why countries grow and what we do know about how ideas and technology and yes aid are improving lives everywhere.”
 
Kirkus
“A World Bank economist’s insightful examination of the effectiveness of global development. . . . Relying on a relaxed approach flecked with sarcasm and wit, Kenny’s accessible and generally jargon-free prose easily guides readers through the contentious and political aspects of global development and the ideologies competing to control it.  A poignant and optimistic rebuttal to critics of global development.”
 
The Guardian (UK)
“After plenty of aid pessimism, here is a relentlessly cheerful polemic, Getting Better, which is delighting development experts in the US and the UK. Charles Kenny's book celebrates an era of unprecedented human development. . . . [and] has a very serious and really important point to make.”
 
Financial Times
Getting Better seems likely to become a canonical addition to the development literature. It sets out a manageable thesis, argues it vigorously and with optimism, realism and humility – a refreshing combination in any field, and particularly one like international development, too often marked by hubristic confidence or histrionic despair.”

Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal
“Elegant and deeply researched… The case made by Mr. Kenny in “Getting Better” is a powerful antidote to overly gloomy assessments of development aid. . . . After years of doom and gloom on the subject of foreign aid, it is refreshing to find so thoughtful and contrarian an approach to the topic. Charles Kenny shines a light on the real successes of aid, and he shows us the benefits that additional smart investment can bring.”

Foreign Affairs
“From time to time, it is useful to stand back from the weekly reports of crises around the world and ask how the human race is really doing. Kenny, a World Bank economist, does this magnificently in this well-written book. . . . Kenny offers a lighthearted critical survey of what economists have had to say about the determinants of economic growth, but he argues that growth, although important and desirable, should not be the main objective.”

 

Mark Bittman, Opinionator column, New York Times
“Original, unusual and radical thinking”

David Leonhardt, New York Times Washington Bureau Chief
“There is no more important topic than the living standards of the world’s seven billion people…and Kenny offers a concise, well-written, fresh take: Life has improved more than is commonly understood, and yet not nearly enough, given our resources and knowledge.”

 

About the Author

Charles Kenny is a senior economist on leave from the World Bank as a joint fellow at the New America Foundation and the Center for Global Development. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By tequilamockingbird on May 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After so many years of development-bashing, it began to feel like there was just no hope for sorting out the problems in the developing world. Even more depressingly, authors like Dambisa Moyo managed to court global fame, peddling views which were not only highly partisan, but poorly researched and ignored any contrary evidence.

So Charles Kenny's book is certainly a ray of sunshine; an island of hope in the sea of negativity. So of course the temptation is to hold this up and say 'ha! we knew we were right all along. development does work!' The book - which trumps the aforementioned Moyo on almost every level in terms of research, clarity of thought, balanced argument and all the rest, certainly does offer a new perspective on the progress of the poorest in the world. But 'poorest' is perhaps the wrong word to choose, as the central conceit of the book is that the relentless measurement of income as an indicator of quality of life - the 'dollar a day' epidemic - is misleading, because as his research shows, there is almost no link at all between growth in income and improvement of quality of life. In countries where there has been no growth at all, certain indicators like life expectancy have improved by as much as 50%, and conversely in countries where there has been steep economic growth such as China or Botswana, there is often a decrease in life indicators.

Kind of seems illogical doesn't it? One can buy into it fully, and accept that it takes someone with a totally new take and perspective to blow apart orthodoxies, and Charles Kenny is that man. One can put the shutters up, and just say no way, one man can't change the tide of all the other naysayers.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on September 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
Author Kenny's message is an important one - that while Africa and many other areas have lagged in terms of income growth over recent decades, they have also seen unprecedented improvement in health and education, security, and human rights. The problem with this message is, that after presenting a few overall statistics in documentation, he goes on and on and on for another 200+ pages. Simply put, the book should be condensed to about two pages.

Here's the 30,000' overview: Since 1960, global average infant mortality has more than halved. The percentage of sub-Saharan Africans who could read and write doubled between 1970 and 1999, from less than one-third to two-thirds. Between 1962 and 2002, life expectancy in the Middle East and North Africa rose from 48 to 69 years. The percentage of the world's infants vaccinated with DPT rose from 20% to nearly 80% between 1970 and 2006.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Andreas on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I read an earlier draft, but this is an excellent antidote to the widespread pessimism about the world. Much of the pessimism about economic development is due to mutilitarianism: an overemphasis on measuring GDP. This book puts development into a fuller context. And it isn't as pie-in-the-sky as Sachs' books.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nathaniel Levin on April 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charles Kenny is a distinguished economist whose optimism is well grounded in reality. He skillfully debunks the myth that development aid is doomed to failure and a waste of money. This is an excellent supplement to the 2010 U.N. Human Development Report. Both books bring the little-recognized good news that over the last 40 years and more the world, in most places and on average, has indeed become much better. If we look past the dire headlines to the less widely reported truth, we come to understand that in fact the human race has achieved great things over the last generation or so. We are living in a goldent age, even if the New York Times does not choose to report it.

I'll quote some vital statistics from the latest UN HDR--Since 1970 (a) average life expectancy at birth has increased from 59 years to 70; (b) percentage of enrollment in school of high school aged kids has increased from 55% to 70%; and (c) per capita annual income has doubled from $5,000 to $10,000 (purchasing-power-adjusted).

Much of this amazing progress was possible (and will continue to be possible), as Kenny points out, because the costs for basics are or have become cheap. It doesn't cost much in local currency to staff a basic educational system, and low cost medical interventions can have a huge effect in raising the performance of developing world health systems.

Yes, there are still hundreds of millions who live in terrible poverty, there is extreme inequality, and the environmental sustainability of tthe world economy is in doubt. Nevertheless, as Kenny argues, there is reasons to hope that even the children of the poorest families will live better lives than their parents.
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Format: Kindle Edition
While the author has some excellent points on how development is getting things right, and what can be done to improve where we are getting things wrong. I felt this book could have gotten all of those points across in about 30 pages. The author simply repeats the same points over and over for most of the book.

Additionally, the author structures sentences in a way that makes you have to re-read them to understand what he is trying to say. Several times I caught myself wondering why he would phrase a sentence in such an unusual way, when a simpler sentence would get the point across. It made the reading very sluggish at times.
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