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The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality Paperback – May 26, 2015
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Angus Deaton, Winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics
Winner of the 2013 William G. Bowen Award, Industrial Relations Section of Princeton University
One of Bloomberg Businessweek’s Best Books of 2015, chosen by John Snow
One of Bloomberg/Businessweek Best Books of 2013, selected by Christopher L. Eisgruber (president of Princeton University)
One of Forbes Magazine’s Best Books of 2013
Honorable Mention for the 2013 PROSE Award in Economics, Association of American Publishers
Shortlisted for the 2014 Spear’s Book Awards in Financial History
Longlisted for the 2013 Business Book of the Year Award, Financial Times/Goldman Sachs
A "Best Business Book of the Year for 2013" selected on LinkedIn by Matthew Bishop, Economics Editor of The Economist
Featured in The Sunday Times 2013 Holiday Roundup
"[O]ne of the most succinct guides to conditions in today's world. . . . The story Deaton tells--the most inspiring human story of all--should give all of us reason for optimism, so long as we are willing to listen to its moral."--David Leonhardt, New York Times Book Review
"[A]n illuminating and inspiring history of how mankind's longevity and prosperity have soared to breathtaking heights in modern times. . . . [Deaton's] book gives a stirring overview of the economic progress and medical milestones that, starting with the Industrial Revolution and accelerating after World War II, have caused life expectancies to soar."--Fred Andrews, New York Times
"[A]n engaging and sure-footed guide to the 'endless dance between progress and inequality . . .'"--Martha C. Nussbaum, New Republic
"Is the world becoming a fairer as well as a richer place? Few economists are better equipped to answer this question than Angus Deaton of Princeton University, who has thought hard about measuring international well-being and is not afraid to roam through history. Refreshingly, Mr Deaton also reaches beyond a purely economic narrative to encompass often neglected dimensions of progress such as better health. . . . [T]he theme requires a big canvas and bold brushwork, and Mr Deaton capably offers both."--Economist
"[E]loquently written and deeply researched. . . . For those interested in world poverty, it is unquestionably the most important book on development assistance to appear in a long time."--Kenneth Rogoff, Project Syndicate
"A truly elegant exploration. . . . It offers an erudite sojourn through history, all the way to the domestic and international policy issues pressing in on us today. Unusual for scholarly works in economics, this book is rendered in easily accessible prose, supported by fascinating statistics presented graphically."--Uwe E. Reinhardt, NYTimes.com's Economix blog
"[A] masterful account."--Anne-Marie Slaughter, CNN.com
"As the title of his book suggests, Deaton sketches out the story of how many people have escaped from poverty and early death. It is a powerful tale. In Deaton's hands, the all too frequently forgotten accomplishments of the last century are given prominence that is both refreshing and welcome."--Edward Hadas, Reuters BreakingViews
"The Great Escape combines, to a rare degree, technical sophistication, moral urgency, the wisdom of experience, and an engaging and accessible style. It will deepen both your appreciation of the miracle of modern economic growth and your conviction that the benefits can and should be much more widely enjoyed."--Clive Crook, Bloomberg News
From the Inside Flap
"There is nobody better than Angus Deaton to explain why our lives are longer, healthier, and more prosperous than those of our great-grandparents. The story he tells is much more than an inexorable march of progress--it has also been unequal, uneven, and incomplete, and at each step, politics has played a defining role. This is a must-read for anybody interested in the wealth and health of nations."--Daron Acemoglu, coauthor ofWhy Nations Fail
"At once engaging and compassionate, this is an uplifting story by a major scholar."--Paul Collier, author ofThe Bottom Billion
"Magisterial and superb."--William Easterly, author of The White Man's Burden
"The Great Escape tells the two biggest stories in history: how humanity got healthy and wealthy, and why some people got so much healthier and wealthier than others. Angus Deaton, one of the world's leading development economists, takes us on an extraordinary journey--from an age when almost everyone was poor and sick to one where most people have escaped these evils--and he tells us how the billion still trapped in extreme poverty can join in this great escape. Everyone who wants to understand the twenty-first century should read this book."--Ian Morris, author of Why the West Rules--for Now
"Deaton's account of global advances in health is magisterial. It is especially convincing in disentangling economic progress from technological growth as sources of health improvements. A very big story, this book should affect the way we think about human development and the role of science and science-based government programs. The language is modest and graceful, the use of evidence compelling, and the illustrations highly attractive."--Samuel Preston, University of Pennsylvania
"This factual, sober, and very timely book deals with issues surrounding the higher incomes and longer lives enjoyed by an increasing proportion of the world's population. It assesses improvements in conditions that would have seemed almost a fantasy for people living only a few generations ago. Deaton's arguments, written in an elegant and accessible style, are powerful and challenge conventional opinions."--Branko Milanovic, author ofThe Haves and the Have-Nots
"This splendid book discusses how, in the last two hundred fifty years, large numbers of people have achieved levels of well-being that were previously available only to a few individuals, and how this achievement has given rise to equally unprecedented inequalities. Unique in its focus and scope, exceptional knowledge and coherence, and careful argumentation,The Great Escape is highly illuminating and a delight to read."--Thomas Pogge, Yale University--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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However, I agree with many other reviewers that the final section on the ineffectiveness of international aid is a mismatch from the rest of the book. It is the least data-centered of the sections and the most like a one-sided persuasive essay. I think he raises a number of valid concerns and considerations about the efficacy of international aid as it is conducted, but I fail to be convinced by his seeming conviction that efforts to reform how aid is conducted would be fruitless. He comes off as a person who has become deeply disillusioned by development aid and can no longer see the legitimacy of any arguments in its favor. However, his even-handedness and open-mindedness about other economic matters in other areas of the book does mean that I am more willing to fully consider his arguments on this issue than I might have been from someone who had not demonstrated such qualities on other issues.
I also didn't think there was much that hadn't already been said. Ironically, he trashed Paul Collier, (Bottom Billion), then proceeded to say essentially the same thing.
The only reason I have him a two was because I found his mortality stats interesting.
One of Deaton's main themes is that economic growth does not necessarily produce improved quality of life, especially when income is distributed very unequally - as is the case in today's United States. So for example, in spite of lower economic growth in France than in the United States, because of a less unequal distribution of income, "all but the top 1 percent of the French population did better than all but the top 1 percent of the American population". (p. 260)
In discussing the relationships between rich and poor countries, I very much like Deaton's implicit framework, which distinguishes "us" (the people of the North), "we" (the Northern governments), aid recipients ("their governments"), and "they" (the people of the South). This helps to cut through a lot of semantic and conceptual confusion, especially when discussing "development assistance".
The book concludes with a chapter about how to help those left behind the "Great Escape" from poverty. While I tend to agree with his main thrust: that foreign aid works best where it is least needed, i.e., where governance is reasonably good, and works worst in poorly-governed countries where the people are most miserable. But from all I have seen, the evidence on aid effectiveness is inconclusive, largely, as Deaton notes, because the data are so bad. Deaton is very critical of aid, but illustrates his argument with selected examples, when one can almost always find counter-examples. However, one can only agree with his observation that increased flows of money don't help - quite the opposite - when recipient countries lack basic capacities and/or are poorly governed.
Although he doesn't say it quite this way, Deaton implies throughout much of the book that while is quite easy for development experts to come up with lists of conditions that are necessary for successful development - including for example respect for the Rule of Law and sound macroeconomic policies - nobody has yet come up with a list of sufficient conditions.
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Deaton is one of the best economists of our time.Read more