Aiming for elegance, one thought at a time

Review: Jeff Sachs’ The End of Poverty

Posted: July 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Reviews | No Comments »

As I write this, I’m in Abu Dhabi International Airport. The last time I was here, I grabbed a copy of Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. It’s a very readable book, and one that has opened my eyes to a whole different way of looking at the world. I very highly recommend that you read the book, as this review will not do it justice, but I would like to briefly summarise some key concepts that have stuck with me.

The key message of the book is that it is within our power, for the first time, to end extreme poverty. That is, over the next 15 years or so, we can build a world where no-one is without the basic necessities: food, clean water, shelter, education, health services, and the opportunity to work to better their lives.

To do this, we need to be guided by what Sachs refers to as clinical economics. Clinical economics means practicing economics as a doctor practices medicine, rather than as an exercise in promoting ideology. Rather than simplistic assessments of economic woes, it calls for a detailed differential diagnosis of the problem. Rather than one-size-fits-all solutions, clinical economics calls for an evidence based approach: choosing those courses of action that we have good empirical reasons to believe will work, and then rigorously assessing our progress against clearly defined goals.

While there are some parts of the work that I don’t completely agree with, for the most part The End of Poverty is excellent. Once again, I very highly recommend reading it. I found it to be thought-provoking and it has inspired me to find ways to engage with problems of this scale within my own domain. I have longed believed in the power of IT , and though my thoughts are yet to coalesce, I’m sure that IT has a large role to play in the end of poverty.

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