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The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Povertyby Nina Munk
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Vanity Fair contributing editor Munk (Fools Rush In: Jerry Levin, Steve Case, and the Unmaking of AOL Time Warner) spent six years chronicling the Millennium Villages Project, the pet project that lauded economist Sachs (The End of Poverty) launched in 2006. The project's goal was an audacious attempt to prove Sachs's well-intentioned, but ultimately naÃ¯ve theories about ending extreme poverty in Africa by focusing on a handful of carefully selected villages with the expectation that their halo effect would spread throughout the country. Munk artfully observes how Sachs's infectious enthusiasm and optimism bring attention (and funding, including million from George Soros) to the fledgling organization at home and abroad. Sachs ably illustrates how tactics like lacing mosquito nets with insecticides to fight malaria can make significant headway in achieving a larger goal of helping communities improve their circumstances and chances for development.' It's a noble effort, but Sachs and his compatriots soon find that they wildly underestimated the difficulty of distributing those crucial nets, the impact of drought, as well as the learned helplessness of the recipients. All of these factors contribute to a less-than-ideal outcome. Students of economic policy and altruistic do-gooders alike will find Munk's work to be a measured, immersive study of a remarkable but all-too-human man who let his vision get the best of him. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary Associates. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
NINA MUNK, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, is a journalist and the author of Fools Rush In: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Unmaking of AOL Time Warner. She was previously a senior writer at Fortune, and before that a senior editor at Forbes. Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Fortune, and the New York Times. She lives in New York.
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