Book Review: The End of Poverty
Posted by chads on October 25, 2007
I finally got around to reading Jeffery Sachs’ The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for our Time.
The mere title had been tantalizing me since I first heard of the book in 2005. Could it really be that we could end poverty? Is that really possible? It takes a visionary like Sachs to convince people like me, lulled in my comforts of 2007, that yes, of course it is possible. Not only is it possible, it is necessary.
I don’t know enough about economic theory to comment on Sachs’ proposals. I am convinced, however, that despite the potential shortcomings of the specifics of his plan, he is starting the conversation at the right spot: poverty can and should end in our generation.
Sachs is not talking about the “relatively poor in high-income countries” that “lack access to cultural goods, entertainment, recreation, and to quality health care, education…” He talks of ending “extreme poverty … the poorest of the poor.” They are “chronically hungry, unable to access health care, lack the amenities of safe drinking water and sanitation, cannot afford education for all or some of their children, and perhaps lack rudimentary shelter.” They are “trapped by disease, physical isolation, climate stress, enviornmental degradation, and by extreme poverty itself,” not even “on the development ladder.” This is “the greatest tragedy of our time.”
The chapters on Poland, Russia, and China were a bit dull, and his narrative struck me as a bit arrogant at times. Over-all, however, I would agree with The Economist: “Book and man are brilliant, passionate, optimistic, and impatient … Outstanding.”