The Idealist

The Idealist

Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty

Book - 2013
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A powerful portrayal of Jeffrey Sachs's ambitious quest to end global poverty

"The poor you will always have with you," to cite the Gospel of Matthew 26:11. Jeffrey Sachs--celebrated economist, special advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and author of the influential bestseller The End of Poverty --disagrees. In his view, poverty is a problem that can be solved. With single-minded determination he has attempted to put into practice his theories about ending extreme poverty, to prove that the world's most destitute people can be lifted onto "the ladder of development."

In 2006, Sachs launched the Millennium Villages Project, a daring five-year experiment designed to test his theories in Africa. The first Millennium village was in Sauri, a remote cluster of farming communities in western Kenya. The initial results were encouraging. With his first taste of success, and backed by one hundred twenty million dollars from George Soros and other likeminded donors, Sachs rolled out a dozen model villages in ten sub-Saharan countries. Once his approach was validated it would be scaled up across the entire continent. At least that was the idea.

For the past six years, Nina Munk has reported deeply on the Millennium Villages Project, accompanying Sachs on his official trips to Africa and listening in on conversations with heads-of-state, humanitarian organizations, rival economists, and development experts. She has immersed herself in the lives of people in two Millennium villages: Ruhiira, in southwest Uganda, and Dertu, in the arid borderland between Kenya and Somalia. Accepting the hospitality of camel herders and small-hold farmers, and witnessing their struggle to survive, Munk came to understand the real-life issues that challenge Sachs's formula for ending global poverty.

The Idealist is the profound and moving story of what happens when the abstract theories of a brilliant, driven man meet the reality of human life.

Publisher: Toronto : Signal, McClelland & Stewart, 2013
ISBN: 9780771062506
Branch Call Number: 339.46 MUN
Characteristics: viii, 260 p., [8 ] p. of plates : col.ill. ; 25 cm.


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Mar 27, 2017

Another Academic who failed to do his research and believed in his own hype to an inordinate degree. This is a readable and engaging book by a journalist who is fair and balanced in reporting. I would recommend it.

Sep 25, 2014

This is a bizarre book. Why? Some time ago, the Saturday morning business program on CNN finally reported [some years after the fact] that the most recent Census Bureau data indicated that one out of every two Americans qualifies as poor. Got that? One out of every two. So this guy, who bungled it in Russia, is going around believing an American can solve these predatory capitalist problems? Sachs needs to read Michael Perelman's book. The Invention of Capitalism.

Mar 17, 2014

Jeffrey Sachs is a brilliant economist, a graduate of Harvard and a professor at Columbia University, who believed he could solve the problem of poverty in Africa. He had good reason to be confident in his abilities, as he had been called in to save the Bolivian economy from collapse in 1985 and to bring Poland out of the dark years when the Eastern Europe was emerging from Communist rule in 1989. He succeeded dramatically in these efforts and made a reputation for his abilities. But then he overreached himself and fell victim to massive hubris. This is the tale, as told by a journalist who was given full access to interview Sachs and visit his key villages, of how Sachs' project failed despite absorbing hundreds of millions of dollars. Underlying the immediate reasons for this failure the question reamains: How can Western countries succeed in overcoming cultural and natural obstacles to enable foreign societies to emerge from chronic poverty? Certainly not by applying theoretical concepts to complex societies on a massive scale. Is any of this remininscent of Western strategy in Afghanistan?

Nov 07, 2013

This chronicle of the celebrated American macroeconomist Jeffery Sachs and his Millennium Villages Project shows that the many causes of Third World underdevelopment are multifaceted, complex and interconnected. Many situations sound like Dickensian England. How did it evolve to a modern post -industrial economy? That path is probably what Jeffery Sachs should have been championing rather than his "big push" flooding of impoverished rural villages with development aid and "magic bullets" (p. 40)? The book provides end notes but no index.


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Nov 07, 2013

"One day later, as promised, Sachs was in Kampala meeting with Yoweri Museveni, the longtime president of Uganda. ... In 2000, [Museveni] had ordered an executive jet for himself, a $30 million Gulfstream IV. ... "Yes, I see," [Museveni] said, ... "But there are other things to consider, Professor [Sachs]. You know, in these countries of Africa, we have many other problems [to rural poverty and poor farm productivity]. This is not India or China. There are no markets. There is no [phone?] network. No rails. No roads. We have no political cohesion." [p. 61, 63, 66]

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