• Innovative
  • Applicable


This is an excellent book by one of today’s most prominent development economists. Jeffrey D. Sachs has been at the forefront of the most significant economic turnarounds - for better or worse - of the past quarter century. He helped end hyperinflation in Bolivia, advised Poland on its emergence from communism, and counseled Russia, China and Africa. On the basis of his extensive research and experience, he concludes that conventional economic solutions ignore some of the key factors responsible for poverty. Borrowing a page from physicians’ diagnostic procedures, he shows how noneconomic factors can have economic implications. Along the way, he exposes the lamentable hypocrisy of the developed world and the institutions allegedly working for the development of the poor world. As an adviser to the leadership of the United Nations, Sachs believes that organization should be strengthened. He is not a dispassionate economist and doesn’t pretend to be. He has a plausible case to make and he presses it hard, maybe now and then too hard, in this effort to convince the prosperous that effective help for the impoverished is practical, at least under some circumstances. getAbstract believes his well informed, heartfelt book belongs on the reading list of anyone who hopes the world can become a better place.


Global Situation

The history of economic development is full of surprises. Just a few centuries ago, global wealth distribution was fairly reasonable. No great gaps existed between extremely rich and extremely poor countries. Yet now, the world’s wealth distribution is skewed. These are the approximate tallies:

  • One billion desperately poor people, mostly in Africa, live on the edge of survival.
  • One-and-a-half billion people at a subsistence level have hard lives characterized by such problems as lack of safe water.
  • Two-and-a-half billion people in the middle-income category live mainly in cities, at a level of comfort that could include indoor plumbing, clothing, access to education and maybe even a motorcycle or a car.
  • One billion people are rich, although even the relatively poor in developed countries are rich by global standards.

What happened to create this world? Why does such an unjust distribution of wealth exist? Advances in technology allowed a few countries to move far ahead of the rest. These countries had relatively easy access to communication and transportation. They often had rich endowments of industrial raw...

About the Author

Jeffrey D. Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Special Adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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