- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (November 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195395247
- ISBN-13: 978-0195395242
- Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.8 x 5.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Plundered Planet: Why We Must--and How We Can--Manage Nature for Global Prosperity Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
How can poor countries escape the cycle of environmental degradation and poverty? Collier (The Bottom Billion) argues that technological innovation, environmental protection, and regulation are key to ensuring equitable development. Environmentalists and economists must work together so resources can be responsibly harnessed; if diamonds have sustained Sierra Leone's bloody feuds, Botswana's diamond industry has given it the world's fastest growing economy. Collier explores where and how corruption insinuates itself during the discovery and resource extraction processes, how taxation and royalty on extraction may redistribute wealth to society, how to reinvest this wealth for the future, and how to use renewable resources sustainably. Despite the narrow treatment of nature as commodity and some questionable contentions that organic farming is antiquated, and that factory farming and genetically modified crops are the only way to alleviate hunger—claims easily challenged by more seasoned agronomists—Collier's arguments are compassionate and convincing, and his straightforward explanations of economic principles are leavened with humor and impressively accessible. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Paul Collier is a brilliant mind with a keen understanding of the modern world's obstacles to progress. In The Plundered Planet, Collier tackles some of the most difficult questions of our time, and offers an insightful framework for effectively managing our world's natural resources. Collier's book is an important meditation on how we can build a world that is more equal, more sustainable, and more prosperous for all humankind." --President Clinton
"Paul Collier has written with great insight about the prospects of the bottom billion. In The Plundered Planet, he addresses himself to the complex opportunities, challenges and risks in managing the planet's natural resources. The bottom billion have a huge stake and an important role in the outcomes. Collier helps us see these issues through their eyes." --Michael Spence, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics
"In this path-breaking book, Paul Collier develops one of the most fascinating subjects he touched on in The Bottom Billion -- the resource curse. It will be of great interest to all those who are concerned about the future of our civilization." --George Soros
"Paul Collier's 'The Plundered Planet' should not only be read by every one of us but also force-fed to every politician." -- Buffalo News
"Read this book."--Sir Nicholas Stern, author of The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change
"Collier has made an important contribution in bringing together usually separate fields. His efforts may spark scholars in disparate disciplines to cooperate on these important problems--especially scholars who work at different scales." -Science
"A practical handbook for ending world poverty - a must read." -- The Sunday Times
"The Plundered Planet is right to highlight the importance of government accountability in addressing poverty and climate change. But it will be the dispersion of power, fuelled by entrepreneurship and innovation, that will ultimately empower individuals to create accountability and solve global problems."--Nature
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Top customer reviews
He is especially good on macroeconomics and national policy, and on the problems of corruption--the "plunder" side of the equation. The middle part of the book, where he dissects this in detail, is by far the best.
He has many good things to say about one of my research areas, fisheries, where we are depleting a resource that should be sustainable, and therefore depriving future generations through sheer irresponsibility. Unfortunately, his cure is to leave fishery regulation to the United Nations and the individual nations that hold territorial waters. The United Nations does not even stop genocide; they saw fit to elect China and Sudan to the Human Rights Commission and then re-elect them. The chances that fish will get better care are somewhat remote.
Collier defends GM crops, nuclear energy generation, and some other things that will raise hackles; I agree with him and the facts are pretty much there, but one must worry about the future with the GM crops, since they are poorly regulated so far.
Collier leaves out two key points that he absolutely needs, to make his case. One is population growth. The delusion that population will naturally stop growing around 2050--a false claim--may have deluded him. In fact, world population is growing far too fast. This could be stopped without any draconian measures, simply by giving girls some education--every year in primary school reduces ultimate birth numbers--and by providing comprehensive health care including family planning options. That done, people are sensible enough to make the right decisions.
Next comes the worldwide decline in good farmland. Urbanization, including building of roads and airports, is a lot of the problem. Erosion and desertification is the rest of it. At current rates of urbanization, my home state of California will lose its last farm around 2050, and China will lose its last one within a century or so. China is moving its agriculture to Brazil, Sudan, and so on--what will the Brazilians and Sudanese eat in the end?
In one place, Collier is wrong, and is so wrong that I find it mystifying: he argues for large-scale agribusiness as opposed to small farms. He holds up the model of the impoverished, capital-less African smallholding or the "romantic" organic hobby farm as the only alternatives! What happened to normal small-to-medium-sized commercial agriculture? There are thousands of studies, over 300 years, using literally tens of millions of data points, that show these are better than large-scale absentee-landlord agribusiness of the Brazil/California style. One can go all the way back to Arthur Young in the 1770s, already proving it. Collier even talked to Hans Binswanger, whom he admits is "the leading international expert on African agriculture" (and, one may add, on some other ag issues), and Binswanger tried to set him straight; but Collier disagrees. One need only read Binswanger's work--or Robert Netting's, or any of a thousand other authors--to see that reasonably-capitalized, intensive, family farming or comparable middle-scale intensive farming is what works. Agribusiness ruins the land and has appalling social consequences; we see a lot of this in California, where, most recently, agribusiness ruined the vast and fertile Tulare Basin by allowing salinization, and now a family farmer is reclaiming a chunk of it through sheer hard work.
Or take my own Mexican research: Maya Indian farmers on tiny plots succeed where every agribusiness effort has failed, in the harsh habitat of the Yucatan peninsula. Hard work and skill will generally beat absentee landlordship and careless use of heavy-duty capital, especially in an environment really needed that skill.
In addition to nonrenewable natural assets, other topics discussed include renewable resources, natural liabilities and food security, for example. The author adopts a pragmatic approach, trying to tread between “romantics”, who believe we must scale back consumption and adopt an idyllic lifestyle, and “ostriches”, who see nature as a never-ending spring of resources. Maybe because I share quite a few of the controversial views supported by him, like the need for GM foods to boost agricultural output and the use of nuclear power to help curb carbon emissions, I think he strikes a reasonable balance.
What I like most in the book is that topics are explored from first principles, in a logic and didactic way, avoiding unnecessary jargon. Agreeing or not with the author’s opinions, the book is undoubtedly an enlightening reading.
The author first discusses some basic resource economic ideas. He starts with the view of his son, who is saddened by resource depletion in brazil. The foundational "axiom" on which the authors perspectives and solutions are based, are that the earth's resources are to be used by mankind as a species, not mankind in a generation. As a result means we need to have a time consistent way to deal with resource usage. Various methods are described, from the ultra risk averse view of saving 100% of the revenues to how the utilitarian calculus would work. These exercises are not mere thought experiments. Case examples of how resource revenues are spent and how crowding out of other enterprises are discussed and the reality of the problem begin to set in with the reader. Cause and effect are blurred and the sense of needing the right institutions in place in order to have the right policies becomes a seeming infinite regress given right institutions need the right institutions which need the right institutions... Collier describes what he believes are the seeds of good institutions, in a sense there are some very innovative ideas about the true foundation of economic growth that has a defined policy starting point.
The author goes on to talk about the problems involved in current resource policy at the local and global level. In particular corporates have asymmetric information with respect to the value of resources but governments have the ability to change their contracts forcing solutions of rapid depletion which are not time consistent. Also the local politics are discussed with politicians able to line pockets which allow them to be more likely to win rather than the opposite is a corrupting force. The author thinks transparency is the key and is an advocate of a program forcing companies to disclose the countries in which they buy resources, making resource plunder as partly a consumer choice. He discusses some of the global problems we face and how to avoid a race to the bottom and free rider problems with over-fishing and carbon emission.
The author considers carbon in the same spirit as non-renewable resources. He looks at carbon as a natural liability; its a very interesting idea. He considers us leaving this debt behind and thus it needs to be looked at that way. The "value" of this debt was estimated as $40 a ton and this price is then used as the number we need to tax carbon production at. I think the idea of considering carbon a debt, is an excellent one, i think the $40 tax isnt thought out as well as it should be. The obvious issues that come to mind are, the value of carbon can only be defined as some number if we can clean it up as that number with constant elasticity of supply. The number used is derived i believe from reducing demand, which is off of today's demand curve (and even that cant be theoretically determined or stationary). Therefore just taxing carbon without having a place for those tax dollars isnt perscriptive, it could go right back into subsidies, it could get taken hostage by interest groups putting into ethanol farming etc. The premise is good, but the map of what to do is very incomplete.
The author then discusses renewable resources. In particular, overfishing and farming. Overfishing is discussed clearly (its a classic game theory problem who's solutions have been studied extensively) and I think this is good reading for anyone unfamiliar. The author then discusses farming. This is where some economists differ and the articulates that he has a differing perspective than a colleague of his by promoting large industrial farms vs smaller family though capitalist farms. In anycase, the need for certain things to be fixed, like allowing GM crops etc is well argued and helps give practical solutions to real problems.
The author has two major concerns, the poorest in the world, and the future of the world. With those being what one worries about, you cant really consider the author as being selfish. His solutions go against vested interests, but he is concerned with feeding the poor, not nostalgia and romanticism. Stunting of growth has permanent irreversible effect and using grain to make enthanol because of the subsidies raises food costs. The inelasticity of supply in crops makes prices ultra sensitive to supply and demand shocks. Mainly to the upside given stocks of food are quite low. The treatment of carbon starts out with a great idea, carbon as a debt, though the rest of it isnt complete (nor can it be given what we know). This is well worth reading, its more difficult than a lot of economics for the general public, but it provides valuable insight by a man trying to help those in the world which most need it, those without the knowledge and power to make informed decisions and those of the future who have no voice.