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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It 1st Edition

143 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195311457
ISBN-10: 0195311450
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Editorial Reviews


"An important book."--Fareed Zakaria
"The best book on international affairs so far this year."--Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times
"This slip of a book is set to become a classic of the 'how to help the world's poorest' genre. Crammed with statistical nuggets and common sense, his book should be compulsory reading for anyone embroiled in the hitherto thankless business of trying to pull people out of the pit of poverty where the 'bottom billion' of the world's population of 6.6 billion seem irredeemably stuck."--The Economist
"Insightful and influential."--Newsweek
"Terrifically readable."
"If Sachs seems too saintly and Easterly too cynical, then Collier is the authentic old Africa hand: he knows the terrain and has a keen ear. As Collier rightly says, it is time to dispense with the false dichotomies that bedevil the current debate on Africa. If you've ever found yourself on one side or the other of those arguments - and who hasn't? - then you simply must read this book."--Niall Ferguson, The New York Times Book Review
"Rich in both analysis and recommendations...Read this book. You will learn much you do not know. It will also change the way you look at the tragedy of persistent poverty in a world of plenty."--Financial Times
"Workable development ideas are hard to find, but Professor Collier may have identified the next frontier for positive change."--Tyler Cowen, The New York Times
"Provides a penetrating reassessment of why vast populations remain trapped in poverty, despite endless debate over foreign aid policy among wealthy countries and institutions."--Barbara McDougall, Jury Chair, The Lionel Gelber Prize, and Canada's Former Secretary of State for External Affairs
"An acclaimed bestseller in 2007, and already a set text in development courses worldwide, Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion has far from exhausted its potential to change the way we think about, teach about, and legislate about global poverty...Its policy recommendations, many of which focus on empowering domestic actors, including through voluntary international standards to serve as rallying cries for reform movements, are not only pragmatic but also addressed squarely to the audience that matters most: the G8. It does not hurt its crossover appeal that The Bottom Billon is a model of good writing for the public understanding of social science."--Ethics & International Affairs (publication of the Carnegie Council)
"One of the most important books on world poverty in a very long time."--Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things Magazine
"Excellent...his key recommendations are right on the mark, and his message should resonate in the development discourse for years to come...Highly recommended."--CHOICE
"One of the most engaging and provocative books on development to appear in a long time. His analyses and proposals--delivered, by the way, in prose unusually good for an author who happens to be an economist--are sound and should be embraced by people who care and can do something about the poorest of the world." --Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico and director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization
"This is an arresting, provocative book, written by an expert in plain English. If you care about the fate of the poorest people in the world, and want to understand what can be done to help them, read it. If you don't care, read it anyway."--Tim Harford, Financial Times columnist and author of The Undercover Economist
"Paul Collier's book is of great importance. He has shown clearly what is happening to the poorest billion in the world, why it is happening and what can be done to open up greater opportunities for them in a world of increasing wealth. His ideas should be at the centre of the policy debate."-Sir Nicholas Stern, Professor at the London School of Economics, Former Chief Economist of the World Bank, and author of The Stern Report on Climate Change
"This is a path-breaking work providing penetrating insights into the largely unexplored borderland between economics and politics."--George Soros
"A persuasive and important challenge to current thinking on development."--Larry Summers
"A lucid and hard-nosed alternative view of the age-old question of development...will no doubt influence and reinvigorate the debate on development for years to come."--International Affairs
"With compassion annealed by smarts; irony softened by warmth; and a commitment to penetrate to the core of things, Collier picks up the tools of economics and forthrightly applies them to the politics and economics of the developing world. Accessible and refreshing, this books provides a blunt and no-nonsense look at a major issue of our times."--Robert H. Bates, Eaton Professor of the Science of Politics, Harvard University
"Professor Collier has a superb and provoking synthesis of the forces and circumstances trapping a billion people in desperate conditions and poverty. For those of us who feel called to serve in the world's most crushing situations, Paul's book is stark affirmation that being there matters. And that it is time for the world community to act in coherent and different ways to bring essential change and hope for the generations to come."--David Young, Senior Vice President, Integrated Ministries and Strategy, World Vision International

About the Author

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. Former director of Development Research at the World Bank, he is one of the world's leading experts on African economies, and is the author of Breaking the Conflict Trap, among other books.
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Product Details

  • Series: Grove Art
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195311450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195311457
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University and a former director of Development Research at the World Bank. In addition to the award-winning The Bottom Billion, he is the author of Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

253 of 259 people found the following review helpful By David Evans VINE VOICE on July 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Collier has two recommendations for helping the poor: "narrow the target and broaden the instruments." Narrowing the target means focusing not on the five billion people in the "developing world," for four billion of those people live in countries that are already growing, many of them very quickly. One billion of the world's people (70% of whom are in Africa) are in countries that are going nowhere fast, except - in some cases - down. Broadening the instruments means shifting focus from aid to an array of policy instruments: better delivery of aid, occasional military intervention, international charters, and smarter trade policy.

The most frustrating element of recent books on economic development is that they wildly overstate. Jeffrey Sachs, in The End of Poverty, promises that we can eradicate poverty with a few simple (if not easy) steps; and William Easterly, in The White Man's Burden, tells us aid is a disaster (with some tiny caveats at the end). Collier offers the nuanced voice that has been missing. He draws on decades of his and others' careful research to explain four traps that keep most of the bottom billion in captivity and why globalization as it is currently configured will do little for these poorest nations.

He goes on to explore how each of a whole array of policy instruments (including but not limited to aid) can play a key role in helping the bottom billion get on track towards growth.
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96 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Etienne RP on July 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Developing countries are quite unlike Tolstoi's characterization of happy and unhappy families. Each happy country looks different from the other, and there are vast differences between China, India, Brazil, and other developing success stories, but there is a similarity between unhappy countries--countries that are not only failing to develop, but also going downward and falling apart. Together, these countries have a combined population of about one billion people, and what happen to this bottom billion has important consequences for the whole world.

Paul Collier pioneered the burgeoning research on the economic causes of conflicts, and his work on civil wars has proved quite controversial among political science experts. Those experts tend to interpret civil wars in terms of heroic struggles motivated by grievances or ethnic strifes reflecting deeply-rooted hatreds. The author's research shows that rebel groups are usually doing well out of war, and that greed often trumps grievance as the underlying cause of conflict. He proves this by statistical analysis, showing for instance that there is basically no relationship between political repression and the risk of civil war, or between ethnic fragmentation and conflict (although ethnic polarization does play a part).

Conflict is not the only trap. The author also goes through the natural resource trap, the trap of being landlocked with bad neighbors, and the trap of bad governance in a small country. Those traps often reinforce each other, and their combined effects condemn the bottom countries to the slow lane. In each case, Paul Collier not only successfully reviews the existing literature, but also offers original insights drawn from his own research.
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101 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Declan Trott on May 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Economic growth is a complicated business. Too many people focus on single issues, as though you just have to flip a switch to create wealth. You won't find any single-factor-theories here! No sir, this is my new, improved, patented, unique, four-factor theory! Step right up folks, it won't last long!

Cheap sarcasm aside, four is better than one. The four factors Collier alludes to are conflict, resources, geography and governance. A fairly standard list, but he is more careful and nuanced than most in analysing what really matters in each case and the interactions between them. Briefly:

1. Conflict (both civil war and coups): while low income and growth and dependence on primary exports are good predictors, inequality and repression are not. Ethnic diversity can be a problem, but only in the particular case where there is a clear majority group but still significant minorities. Highly diverse countries are therefore as well off as homogenous ones. There is no special "Africa effect" once other factors are accounted for. In one study from Nigeria, fighters tend to be young, uneducated and with no dependents. Having a sense of grievance does not matter. Conflict areas tend to be those with few oil wells (rather than none or many), with no relationship with the level of government services in the region. Most ominously, there does appear to be a trap: once conflict happens once, it makes future conflict more likely.

2. Resources: The resource curse does operate, through the standard channels of Dutch disease, volatility, and kleptocracy. But it is dependent on bad governance. If a country has a working democracy with checks and balances before resource wealth is discovered, there is no problem.
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