Summary of The Idealist

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The Idealist book summary


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By 2005, Jeffrey Sachs was a rock star as economists go. He had written a best-selling book – The End of Poverty – and his speeches drew sold-out crowds. Sachs spread the message that the way to end poverty in Africa was to invest in clean water, basic medical care, fertilizer and mosquito nets. He raised $120 million from donors and directed the cash to several villages in Africa. Journalist Nina Munk chronicles his humanitarian experiment and reports from the ground in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. She finds Sachs’s optimism unfounded and reports that African poverty is too complex to be fixed with well-meant donations. While cautioning that this is only one viewpoint about a saga that surely drew many different opinions, getAbstract recommends Munk’s journalistic assessment to NGOs, investors, entrepreneurs and policymakers seeking a realistic overview of an optimistic and valiant, if doomed, effort.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How economist Jeffrey Sachs proposed to end poverty in Africa,
  • What challenges emerged and
  • Why the experiment didn’t work as planned.

About the Author

Nina Munk, a Vanity Fair contributing editor, also wrote Fools Rush In: Steve Case, Jerry Levin and the Unmaking of AOL Time Warner. She wrote for Fortune and was an editor at Forbes.



From “Shock Therapy” to Idealism
In 1985, Bolivia invited Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs to help end its financial crisis. Bolivia had an “annualized inflation rate of 25,0000%,” so neither the International Monetary Fund nor the World Bank were keen to help. Sachs prescribed austerity...

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