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An Optimistic and Inspiring Look at Poverty

I have been thinking a lot about world poverty lately, and even more so since I started reading Jeffrey Sachs's truly wonderful book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. Sachs starts out by giving a general overview of the world's condition. He has some pretty heavy things to say about all of the needless dying from fully treatable diseases. Common themes throughout the book:

We can eliminate extreme poverty by 2025

Traditional arguments about why poor countries are poor (e.g. corrupt leadership) are too simplistic.

The UN programs are the means for achieving economic progress.

Poor countries are in a poverty trap that they cannot escape without foreign aid.

The health situations in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia are inexcusable and are keys to explaining why these areas cannot escape poverty.

The Bush administration, and the Western world, generally is neglecting it's responsibility and making terrible decisions.

A little under a third of the book is devoted to outlining the situation in 6 regions: Bolivia, Poland, Russia, China, India, and Africa. Honestly, I felt that these chapters could get a bit burdensome (he talks a lot of macroeconomics). The most meaningful thing to me was Sachs's discussion of Malaria and AIDS and the West's negligence in addressing these issues.

Despite outlining all of these problems, Sachs remains optimistic throughout, detailing how we can (and easily so) eliminate this poverty.

The author does mention the insanity of letting fundamentalist Christian end-of-the-world scares dictate our foreign policy. Besides this jab at Christianity - and I share his sentiments in this regard (he specifically mentions the Left Behind Series) - Sachs mentions the religious only to show how religious groups are the means for Conservative America to help contribute to poverty reduction.

I'm still not sure what to think of Sachs's idea that corruption in governments has little or nothing to do with why a country's citizens remain poor. At first I disagreed with the assertion, but once I read his more in-depth treatment of it, I couldn't really argue with him.

This book is definitely written by a man who is critical towards the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, and who is fully supportive of the United Nations. Thus, it may initially be off-putting to conservatives. But if you have a heart to care for the poor, and a brain to understand what it will take to help them, you will have to agree with most of what Jeffrey Sachs says.

Very enlightening.

The End of Poverty: A

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