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Paperback The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time Book

ISBN: 0143036580

ISBN13: 9780143036586

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time

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The landmark exploration of economic prosperity and how the world can escape from extreme poverty for the world's poorest citizens, from one of the world's most renowned economists Hailed by Time as one of the world's hundred most influential people, Jeffrey D. Sachs is renowned for his work around the globe advising economies in crisis. Now a classic of its genre, The End of Poverty distills more than thirty years of experience to offer a uniquely...

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I just finished a book that was as much a page-turner as it was an eye-opener: The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffrey Sachs. If you pick up this book, you won't be able to put it down. And after you're done, you'll never look at global poverty, history, and politics the same way again. When Sachs talks about ending poverty, he is specifically talking about ending extreme poverty, which he defines as the over 1 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day, by the year 2025. I came away from this book believing that it is entirely possible within our lifetimes. Sachs is uniquely qualified to write such a book. Here is the book cover introduction, "Hailed by TIME as one of the world's 100 most influential people, Jeffrey Sachs is world renowned for his work around the globe advising economies in crisis. He has advised a broad range of world leaders and international institutions on the challenges of hyperinflation, disease, post-communist transition, and extreme poverty." He is now director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a leading advocate of debt relief and aid for developing countries. The first two chapters take us on a tour of global poverty starting with the current situation followed by a brief history of development. Chapters 3 and 4 do away with the status quo and simplistic answers to why some economies fail to thrive, and give us a road map for diagnosing "sick" economies. Chapters 5-10 are country specific chapters based on Sachs' own experience working with government leaders and education as an economist. He served as an adviser to Bolivia's government during the hyperinflation crisis of the mid-80s, Poland's government as the budding democracy freed itself from Soviet rule, Russia's government after the fall of the Soviet Union, China's government as the fastest growing economy increasingly opens up to free-market reforms, and India's government as it leads the world in an IT revolution. Thought the entire thrust of the book constantly directs the reader's attention toward Africa, there is also a specific chapter dedicated to its unique problems and development. The final chapters discuss the political situation in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11, the actual on the ground solutions and financing need to end extreme poverty, how the rich can afford to help the poor, common "myths and magic bullets" used to argue against aid, and a final philosophical challenge to our generation. Three observations come to mind specifically that I either learned from the book or were solidified by it. First, letting democracy and free-market capitalism run their course is not sufficient. While this is a necessary ingredient, poverty is a multi-faceted problem that doesn't have such a simple solution. Sachs does fine job describing how the poorest of the poor are not even on the ladder of development due to disease, lack of education, poor infrastructure, adverse climate conditions, and geopolitical

If you're interested in this topic, this is a must-read

Just an FYI, if you are considering buying this book I wouldn't use the reviews as an absolute reference. I noticed a number of factual errors in the reviews already posted, particularly the really negative ones. Jeffrey Sachs is reported to have made points he never made (at least in my reading of the book); not to have covered points that he did in fact cover; and to be 'all for' certain things that in reality he only mentions as a minor part of his program. Just something to take note of, if you're shopping here. Overall I thought this book was a gem. First the was easy enough for a beginner like me to understand (not to mention interesting - no small task for an economics book) yet contained a wealth of information and a great analysis of poverty in Africa and other parts of the world. Jeffrey Sachs goes into detail about many of the things we're always told about poverty (usually without any supporting evidence, other than 'this is just the way it is') and give compelling reasons for why he believes these answers are false. In one instance, he notes that people repeatedly blame almost all of Africa's problems on corruption, and then gives very interesting data to support the idea that this isn't the case. For example, the fact that countries in other parts of the world with similar levels of corruption have in fact made much stronger economic gains, and the fact that decreased corruption shows little correlation to a stronger economy among countries within Africa. The analysis regarding why so many parts of Africa are trapped in poverty and what measures need to be taken to address this was the most fascinating part of the book for me. There is a lot of information about Africa's unique situation in terms of climate, disease, geography, and history. I also enjoyed reading about many of the myths surrounding foreign aid, for example, how little of it is actually money, spent on things that matter, as opposed to various other programs dressed up as 'donations'. Another plus, for me, was the fact that Jeffrey Sachs seems very balanced. He does not vilify or over-praise the various groups he comes into contact with, rather, he is able to see both their positive and negative traits. He doesn't leap on to one side of an issue, praising market force as the savior of all things or claiming that only a socialist model is a humanitarian model. In a world that tends to be polarized, he is able to make a rational case for a blend of techniques, ideas, and philosophies. There were a few cons, although overall I highly recommend this book. As a few people have mentioned, Jeffrey Sachs comes off as a little self-congratulatory in parts. Don't get me wrong - maybe his record is just 'that' good, but my guess would be that he was trying to establish some credibility by describing all of the times he's been right in the past when established thinking has been incorrect. There were also a few places where even I, new to this topic though

This book challenged my self image as a hard-nosed realist

This book changed my outlook in two ways. First, it redefined what I think of as poverty. For me and I'm sure for many others who haven't thought about it deeply, "poverty" called up images that ranged from trailer parks to ghettos to third-world sweatshops to famine stricken villages. When Sachs speaks of ending poverty he is referring to extreme poverty of famines and state failures only, and not the relative poverty found in affluent countries. While someone born into a ghetto may not have the same opportunities as someone born in a suburb, they are unlikely to die because of a lack of food, water, or shelter. In countries stricken by extreme poverty, by contrast, millions die each year because "they are too poor to live." By concentrating on just this set of extremely poor people, Sachs usefully narrows the scope of the problem he wants to address. As a hard-nosed realist, I would take issue with anyone utopian enough to think that relative poverty can be eliminated, especially after the disastorous attempts to do just that by the Communist countries of the last century. But Sachs does not want to give every sweatshop worker a BMW or every trailer park dweller a diamond ring. He wants us to take on the task of restructuring the world so that death because of want no longer happens. It's something that we in the first world have proved is possible, since we have already done it for our own citizens. This leads to the second way this book changed my outlook. Sachs spends the majority of the book showing how most of the extremely poor people of the world live in countries that simply do not have the capability of helping themselves. Most countries, even those in the third world, have entered the "virtous cycle" of capital accumulation and investment. But in the extremely poor countries all existing capital is consumed simply to stay alive. Indeed, in many cases the amount of capital per person is decreasing thanks to a growing population or environmental degredation. The problems that I had always thought of as the key factors to helping these countries, such as less corruption/better governance or culture factors like women's rights, are not at the root of poverty. In fact, given the in-depth explanations in this book I am now convinced that it is possible to have a perfectly governed, free, and equitable country that is nonetheless doomed to unending poverty and suffering. The only way out of the poverty trap is an infusion of capital from outside to pay for basic infrastructure and development. That is where our task, and our moral responsibility, begins. If, like me, you always considered poverty an unfortunate but unavoidable condition of the world at large I urge you to read this book. It makes a clear and compelling case that if we commit ourselves we can make the world a radically better place.


This is without a doubt one of the most important books written in the last two decades. One may even argue that its value is comparable to Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" in its own time. I cringe with anger and hopelessness every time I hear the comments and puzzlings of bewildered, conservative, lower to middle-class Americans who simply cannot figure out why their beloved United States of America is so deeply despised throughout vast regions of the rest of the world. If only more citizens would find sources like this book instead of sound-bite driven and insubstantial TV news to discover some of the real history of the world economy and how dangerous the present global economic situation is becoming. If only more Americans could grasp Sach's common sense message: If we continue to ignore the extreme, life threatening poverty of one-sixth of the world's population and the devastating relative poverty of two-thirds of the world's angriest poor, we will face ever-increasing waves of terrorism, war and, probably, our own eventual destruction. If you're one of those Americans who doesn't vote or think that your vote makes much difference, read this book. If you are an American who thinks you're not making as much money as you think you are worth, read this book. If you feel like this summers' heat wave has been really unbearable for you, you need to read this book. If you've never travelled outside the United States, you need to read this book. In fact, I can't think of anyone who does not need to read this book, so buy it and read it and open up your eyes, or we'll all be sorry.

John Zxerce's comment

I would just like to clarify 2 issues regarding Mr. Zxerce's comment on U.S. development assistance. First, using numbers from 2000 (as Mr. Zxerce does), the OECD reports that the U.S. gave only $7.4 billion in net official development assistance. Mr. Zxerce claims the government gave $22.6 billion (a number from a USAID report) which includes all money going to developing countries, most of which does not go towards development purposes (a lot goes to Israel; military education, training, and loans; and antiterrorism). The issue is not to focus on total government flows to developing countries, but to report how much of it is actually going towards development (to make investments in health, education, and infrastructure, for example). Prof. Sachs' recent Foreign Affairs piece "The Development Challenge" takes a very detailed look at how U.S. aid is used, showing how little actually makes it to the ground for real development. The article will help clarify most of these points, and can be downloaded at under "Publications" Second, the USAID report that Mr. Zxerce's numbers come from claims that private giving to developing countries was $33.6 billion in 2002. However, this is misleading because $18 billion of this amount is individual remittances, which are not development aid at all but income transfers between family members in the United States and abroad. Counting remittances as development assistance would be tantamount to counting incomes of American expatriates sent back to the U.S. as international assistance from the rest of the world to the U.S. I hope people take time to read the book carefully, as it will help clarify the issues of how much the United States actually gives, and how an increased American effort could help meet the Millennium Development Goals and make a safer and more prosperous world.
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