- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 28, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143036580
- ISBN-13: 978-0143036586
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 218 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time Paperback – February 28, 2006
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"Jeffrey Sachs is that rare phenomenon: an academic economist famous for his theories about why some countries are poor and others rich, and also famous for his successful practical work in helping poor countries become richer. In this long-awaited, fascinating, clearly and movingly written book, he distills his experience to propose answers to the hard choices now facing the world." —Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
"Book and man are brilliant, passionate, optimistic and impatient... Outstanding." —The Economist
"If there is any one work to put extreme poverty back onto the global agenda, this is it." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Paul Wolfowitz should read Jeffrey Sachs’s compelling new book." —Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek
“Professor Sachs has provided a compelling blueprint for eliminating extreme poverty from the world by 2025. Sachs’s analysis and proposals are suffused with all the practical experience of his twenty years in the field—working in dozens of countries across the globe to foster economic development and well-being.” —George Soros, financier and philanthropist
"Sachs proposes a many-pronged, needs-based attack...that is eminently practical and minimally pipe-dreamy...A solid, reasonable argument in which the dismal science offers a brightening prospect for the world's poor." —Kirkus
"This is an excellent, understandable book on a critical topic and should be required reading for students and participants in public policy as well as those who doubt the problem of world poverty can be solved." —Mary Whaley, Booklist
About the Author
Jeffrey D. Sachs is the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, as well as Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Health Policy and Management. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals. He has twice been named among Time Magazine's 100 most influential world leaders. He was called by the New York Times, "probably the most important economist in the world," and by Time Magazine "the world's best known economist." A recent survey by The Economist ranked Sachs as among the world's three most influential living economists of the past decade. His other books include Common Wealth, The Price of Civilization, To Move the World, and The Age of Sustainable Development.
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We do economy just how we do religion: There always being someone at the 'valve', controlling exactly how much one is allowed to have and at what cost. For about 5% of the population that works great. But it is fundamentally wrong. Has been since religion and economy got invented. As long as there are bullies at any sort of valves, be that Rome, Mecca, Wall Street, Zurich, London or elsewhere, there will be poverty, pain and suffering. Our challenge is not merely one of economic proportions, it involves states of mind, spirituality and the loss of Happiness. Jeffrey Sachs will not bring that back, regardless of what the promoters on the back-page of his book say.
Who are some of these anyway? For one, Ernesto Zedillo, 'former president of Mexico', one of the world's most corrupt nations. Or George Soros, 'financier' and 'philanthropist', words which seem in diametrical opposition to one another. Mother Theresa, Albert Schweitzer or Gandhi (supposedly worth less than five bucks at his death) might qualify as philanthropists, but billionaires?. Then there is that rock idol Bono (foreword), another heavy hearted millionaire idol of the masses, who wants to help, as do I, for that matter. But we're heading for 7 billion and counting on this planet, and overpopulation is a problem no Ivy League professor or rock star will fix.
In the first third of "The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time," the author introduces his readers to a truly fascinating character, an intrepid man of integrity and unusual brilliance, with the ability to grasp simple and achievable roadmaps for alleviating poverty where others of immense education and experience see nothing but a tangled and unsolvable puzzle. Small wonder that many heads of state and ministers of finance from countries as diverse as Bolivia, Poland and Malawi have come knocking at his door, veritably hat-in-hand and on bended knee, begging him to lend his inimitable genius to the cause of their benighted land. The character's name is Professor Jeffrey Sachs. And he has a plan to save the world from abject poverty. Consider this exert (and note the use of the first person): "I reject the plaintive cries of the doomsayers who say that ending poverty is impossible. I have identified specific investments that are needed; found ways to plan and implement them; shown that they can be affordable; and addressed the counsels of despair who claim that the poor are condemned by their cultures, values, and personal behaviors."
In fairness, Sachs isn't the only hero in his own story. In fact, he's a big fan of any important person who is a big fan of his. For instance, Sachs writes that collaborators in Poland, Bronislaw Geremek, Jacek Kuron, and Adam Michnik, "are giants in the worldwide struggle for human rights"; his ally Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland , Director General of the World Health Organization, is "one of the world's most skilled political leaders"; UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is "the world's finest statesman"; while Harvard colleague Paul Farmer is "a saint of global health." Evidently, the only thing remotely as impressive as being Jeffrey Sachs himself is somehow helping Jeffrey Sachs promote his vision and work.
Snarky comments aside, "The End of Poverty" is absolutely a book of value and importance, even though I don't necessarily subscribe to the author's central hypothesis that solving global hunger is a simple, yet expensive trick. And I certainly reject his egocentric approach to the topic, that is often grating -- embarrassing actually. In the foreward, written by U2 front man and celebrated humanitarian Bono, the rock star tells a story of being approached by a flight stewardess while traveling with Professor Sachs. Bono humbly commented that the autograph seeker should instead be asking for Sachs' signature as it will certainly be worth more in time. I can't help but imagine Professor Sachs shaking his head in agreement with this preposterously flattering statement.
Nevertheless, Sachs makes many valid points and helpful insights in this book. One of the very best is his argument in favor of "clinical economics." He compares contemporary development economics to physicians in the 18th century, prescribing leeches to bleed the sick, committing much harm and very little good. The professor's wife is a pediatrician and he's learned a lot from observing her work. He argues that five principles from medical triage should be applied to development economics: 1) an economy, like the human body, is a complex system where the failure of one system can quickly and easily cascade to others; 2) there is a fundamental importance in differential diagnosis that allows the practitioner to tap into the root cause of a common symptom (e.g. fever/poverty); 3) development, like our health, is a "family affair," and the economist needs to ask what the industrial world family can do to help the brother sick economy; 4) the economist, like any good doctor, must monitor and evaluate for outcomes, not just inputs (i.e. what's been done); and 5) the need to develop professional standards and responsibilities for the economist akin to the physician's Hippocratic oath (i.e. the economist needs to truly understand their "patients" - study their history and culture - and feel ownership for their health and well-being).
Second, Sachs places particular emphasis on the criticality of physical geography. He first gained appreciation for this fact when advising the Bolivian government in the 1980s. I know from my firsthand experience in southern Afghanistan that grand dreams for economic rehabilitation easily founder on the rocky shoals of geographic isolation.
Much like other book on economic development that ostensibly are not about sub-Saharan Africa, but really are all about sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Paul Collier's "The Bottom Billion"), Sachs pays special attention to this benighted region, even though his goal is to eradicate extreme poverty globally. So why is Africa so desperate? Sachs quickly rejects two favored explanations from both the political Right and Left: 1) African governments are too corrupt (Sachs: no, many Asian countries, such as India, Indonesia and Bangladesh have been more corrupt and yet have achieved economic growth); and 2) colonial exploitation has devastated Africa (Sachs: no, many countries in Asia suffered just as much, if not worse). So then what plagues Africa? Sachs says it's the 3 D's: disease (AIDS and malaria, specifically), drought (unreliable irrigation) and distance (most Africans live in isolated, inland villages without access to navigable rivers).
So is there any hope for poor sub-Saharan Africa? Sachs says, "YES!" But it will require an integrated approach - or "package investments" - backed by major and consistent financial support from the rich countries. He uses the rural, impoverished Kenyan village of Sauri to demonstrate his point. The farmers in Sauri (and just about all the families are farmers) are caught in a classic poverty trap. Their income is so low that they can't afford to buy critical fertilizers or medical attention. Thus, crops are reduced or fail, while family members are struck down by malaria or worse, forcing families to pull children out of school to help gather water or fuel wood. Economic growth for these families is worse than stagnant; it's negative. Sachs argues that a "big push" in 5 interconnected development interventions is all that is needed to get these poor communities on the first rung of the development ladder. "If a country trapped beneath the ladder," he writes, "with the first rung too far off the ground, the climb does not even get started. The main objective of economic development for the poorest countries is to help these countries to gain a foothold on the ladder." For a mere $70/person per year a village like Sauri can be boosted to the first rung of the ladder with strategic investments in: 1) agriculture (mostly fertilizers and nitrogen rich tree plantings); 2) basic health (village technician); 3) education (primary and functional); 4) power/transport/communication (grid power, roads, cell phones); and 5) sanitation (clean drinking water). Sachs claims that a village like Sauri can be saved for a mere $350K per year. "Foreign assistance is not a welfare handout," he stressed, "but is actually an investment that breaks the poverty trap once and for all."
And here lies the rub with this book for me. The professor lays out a clear, albeit ambitious program of packaged, interconnected investments. He also quantifies what it might cost for a very specific village, thus remaining true to his call for "clinical economics" that treats each patient's case as unique. Yet, this experiment, which is both remarkably cheap (you couldn't get $5M from the Gates Foundation to prove out the model in Sauri?!) and absolutely critical to his core hypothesis, was evidently not followed up upon. He makes much of his visit to Sauri, the passion and earnestness of its people, the clarity of what needed to be done, the affordability of the needs...but that's the last we hear of this central test case.
He goes on to chastise the Western World, the United States especially, for a general failure to live up to their financial and political commitments made in support of the Millennial Development Goals. Specifically, the West pledged to devote 0.7% of GNP to official development assistance (ODA), the most flexible and useful form of economic development contribution according to Sachs. For the United States, that would be growing foreign aid from the 2005 range of $15B (0.14% of GNP) to $75B, or roughly 50% more than the annual budget for the entire U.S. State Department.
Sachs argues that helping the extreme poor is absolutely achievable. First, the global population of extreme poor (those caught in negative economic growth) is "only" 1 billion, which he claims is a manageable figure. Second, he is focused only on "extreme" poverty, those unable to provide the basic necessities of a healthy life, not the "relative" poor who can't afford cable and an iPhone. Third, the situation can be effectively addressed by targeted and achievable projects, mainly roads, power, soil, water and sanitation. Fourth, the new super rich in the western world can afford to pay the bill for these investments almost completely on their own. And, fifth, our available tools, especially technology, are stronger than ever. Despite these qualifications, Sachs' plan is wildly ambitious. Indeed, rival New York-based economist William Easterly hints in his 2006 counter-thesis "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good" that Sachs has "delusions of grandeur." He argues that Sachs' "plan to end world poverty shows all the pretensions of utopian social engineering," and goes on to negatively cite comparisons of "The End of Poverty" to the writings of discredited nineteenth century utopian Robert Owen.
Sachs estimates that the total investment per person required is roughly $110. He further estimates that even individuals suffering extreme poverty could contribute $10 per year to their own salvation and that their cash strapped governments could reasonably scrounge up another $35 per citizen in the form of taxes to support the program. That leaves $65 per person ($100 - $10 - $35 = $65) to be provided by ODA. Sachs suggests that the total ODA investment would be split roughly 1/3 to health, 1/3 to energy, 1/5 to education, and the rest distributed to sanitation and other needs.
In 2002, gross foreign aid amounted to $76B, but Sachs says that even this number, which he argues is miserly, is misleading, as much of that money was in the form of debt relief ($6B) or import credits or for expensive Western development consultants or for middle income countries he says don't really deserve the money. Sachs estimates that only $12B of that $76B was true ODA targeting the neediest countries. Rather, according to Sachs, the world needs a whopping $195B in true ODA to the bottom billion by 2015 - or an increase of some 16 fold. Over half of this additional money would have to come from the United States, he writes. And for those who argue that ODA does not take into consideration private and NGO investment, Sachs says that those donations, while important and welcome, only total some $3B per year, or roughly 0.03% of GNP. In other words, a relative drop in the bucket. The author suggests at first that the most wealthy Americans - the top 400 income earners in 2000 who made $69B, or roughly the GDP of four African nations with a population of 161 million - pay the lion share of the required investment. Yet, like in many other examples, he doesn't present any kind of plan, but rather offers up a 5% additional income tax on those income earners of more than $200,000. The top 400 earn, on average, $172M a year. How he got from that number to $200,000 a year, I have no idea.
He goes on to chastise the United States for spending 30 times more on defense than ODA. That is a reasonable argument to make, I think. Furthermore, he cites a CIA report that shows that there have been 113 cases of state failure from 1957 to 1994, nearly all of which contained the common denominators of high infant mortality, a closed economy, and an authoritarian regime. The vast majority of these events drew U.S. intervention in one form or another, thus arguing for the national security importance of preventing such failures. Or, as Sachs claims, "Eliminating poverty at the global scale is a global responsibility that will have global benefit." And he cites the Marshall Plan (>1% of GNP from 1948 to 1951), Jubilee 2000 Campaign to end indebtedness and PEPFAR as examples of American generosity. But these examples begged the question for me: Were Jubilee 2000 and PEPFAR successful? If so, how? If not, why not? Again, Sachs is silent on these questions.
In closing, "The End of Poverty" is an important book and if you have half an interest in the subject you owe it to yourself to read it closely. That said, at the very least, supplement your reading of this book with Easterly's "The White Man's Burden" and Paul Collier's "The Bottom Billion." Sachs deserves to be read with thought and care. But think (or read) twice before you swallow his utopian visions of a world without poverty so close and so easily achievable.
The second is the advantage of high-density urban life for most nonfarm economic activities, especially the face-to-face demands of commerce and other parts of the service sector. Sparsely populated rural areas make good economic sense when each household needs a lot of land for farm production. But they make little sense when people are engaged mainly in manufacturing, finance, commerce, and the like. Once the labor force is no longer engaged mainly in food production, it is natural that the bulk of the population will relocate to cities, drawn by higher wages that in turn reflect the higher productivity of work in densely settled urban areas.
Modern economic growth has also produced a revolution in social mobility. Established social rankings-such as the fixed hierarchical divisions between peasants and gentry, or within the Indian caste structure, or in the social orders of nobility, priests, merchants, and farmers that characterized many traditional Asian societies-all unravel under the forces of market-based modern economic growth.
Fixed social orders depend on a static and largely agrarian economic setting where little changes in living standards or technologies from one generation to the next. They cannot withstand the sudden and dramatic bursts of technological change that occur during modern economic growth, in which occupations and social roles shift dramatically from one generation to the next, rather than being inherited by sons from fathers and daughters from mothers.