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Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 18, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this sobering but optimistic manifesto, development economist Sachs (The End of Poverty) argues that the crises facing humanity are daunting—but solutions to them are readily at hand. Sachs focuses on four challenges for the coming decades: heading off global warming and environmental destruction; stabilizing the world's population; ending extreme poverty; and breaking the political logjams that hinder global cooperation on these issues. The author analyses economic data, demographic trends and climate science to create a lucid, accessible and suitably grim exposition of looming problems, but his forte is elaborating concrete, pragmatic, low-cost remedies complete with benchmarks and budgets. Sachs's entire agenda would cost less than 3% of the world's annual income, and he notes that a mere two days' worth of Pentagon spending would fund a comprehensive antimalaria program for Africa, saving countless lives. Forthright government action is the key to avoiding catastrophe, the author contends, not the unilateral, militarized approach to international problems that he claims is pursued by the Bush administration. Combining trenchant analysis with a resounding call to arms, Sachs's book is an important contribution to the debate over the world's future. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Lucid, quietly urgent, and relentlessly logical... this is Bigthink with a capital B."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Jeffrey Sachs never disappoints. . . . This book is an excellent resource for all those who want to understand what changes the twenty-first century may bring."
-Kofi Annan, winner of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize and former secretary-general of the United Nations

"Common Wealth explains the most basic economic reckoning that the world faces."
-Al Gore, winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and former vice president of the United States --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201277
  • ASIN: B00394DOI4
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,356,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is yet another classic from Jeffrey Sachs. Here is the most comprehensive and compelling list of issues facing Mother Earth in the twenty first century and also some excellent prescriptions for sustainable and inclusive global economic growth.

The list of "six earth changing trends" starts with convergence. Thanks to globalization and relatively peaceful environment despite some regional tensions, most developing countries are catching up fast for the lost time in the last three decades. Sachs explains the concept of convergence and a thumb rule for forecasting faster growth rates of poorer countries, relative to their income levels. The good news is that poorer countries can grow faster. The flip side is that there are about 6 times more people on this planet today than in 1830 and this is expected to grow by another 40 % to 9.2 billion by 2050. Assuming steady economic growth rates, the global GNP is expected to reach around $ 400 Trillion from the current $ 67 Trillion, a six fold increase.

The bad news is that this may not be achievable if we continue to adopt conventional technologies that deplete natural resources that have an adverse impact on the already fragile environment. Sachs quantifies his using the I = P*A*T equation, where the environmental impact of development equals the product of population, average income and the negative effect of conventional technologies. That means that by 2050, we would have environmental pollution levels that are about 8.4 times than today, which is clearly unsustainable. Hence the urgent need for adopting sustainable technologies on a rapid scale, whereby I=P*A/S where S in the denominator stands for sustainable technologies.

The impact of global warming is also explained extremely well.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With the publication of The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time just a few years ago, Jeffrey Sachs estimated that it would take annual donations of 135 to 190 billion dollars by rich countries to eradicate poverty by 2025. Those were the UN Millenium Development Goals of 2000. But much has happened since then. Economic development has accelerated and not because of development aid, it was mostly due to globalization or market forces. The unfortunate by-product of this development has been enviromental stress. In order to continue development in a sustainable way and also reach areas of sub-Sahara Africa, the price tag will go up. According to Sachs, it will now require 840 billion dollars or about 2.4 percent of rich-world income. This is still a bargain when one considers the alternative.

Sachs is obviously a liberal with a grandiose plan that many will call utopian. He has been famously criticized by conservatives such as William Easterly in The White Man's Burden. Conservatives are not keen on large-scale plans in general, and they are generally cynical about what governments and humanitarian aid agencies can accomplish. However, in spite of their differences, Sachs and Easterly share some common ground. They both believe that small targeted projects that are either monitored or bypass corrupt government officials can be effective. Sachs is at his best when he draws on work done at the Earth Institute, of which he is director.
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Format: Hardcover
Having recently finished Friedman's "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" and Collier's "The Bottom Billion", I was excited to pick this book up as a continuation of those themes. In the end, I think I would have been better served sticking with the first two. At times, Sachs was excellent. For example, his chapter on population is full of figures, compelling and well-presented data, interesting anecdotes, and seemed written from the perspective of someone passionately involved with the topic. In other parts of the book he seemed out of his element. The sections on poverty and energy, while interesting, were much weaker than the section on population, and rather better covered (as one would expect from books specific to those topics) by Friedman and Collier. Overlap between topics in books is nothing new, I just think I suffered from having read the other two first.

I also was somewhat annoyed with the partisan tone the book took on at times. I was annoyed not because I necessarily disagreed with Sachs, but rather than it seemed to actively work to defeat the purpose of the book. I feel like much of this book was written to move people from complacency to a place of better understanding, and hopefully to action. The constant, almost sniping, remarks about the failings of the Bush administration (and, to be fair, other administrations as well) could well be a turn-off to the very people Sachs would like to reach with this book. All that now said, his last chapter was very good. The specifics of 'here's what we need to do' to make inroads against poverty, population explosion, and the energy crisis leave one with a sense of hope; that the goals are reachable.

So, in the end I would recommend reading Collier and Friedman *instead* of this book, though you could certainly do a lot worse than reading this one.
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