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Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planetby Jeffrey D. Sachs
Rather than a grim manifesto on the world's problems, Jeffrey Sachs offers readers what he calls the four key goals of a global society prosperity for all, the end of extreme poverty, stabilization of the global population, and environmental sustainability and gives real economic data on how we can achieve these goals. Like Sachs's first book The End of Poverty, Common Wealth is accessible, balanced, and hopeful.
Synopses & Reviews
From one of the world's greatest economic minds, author of The New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty, a clear and vivid map of the road to sustainable and equitable global prosperity and an augury of the global economic collapse that lies ahead if we don't follow it.
The global economic system now faces a sustainability crisis, Jeffrey Sachs argues, that will overturn many of our basic assumptions about economic life. The changes will be deeper than a rebalancing of economics and politics among different parts of the world; the very idea of competing nation-states scrambling for power, resources, and markets will, in some crucial respects, become pass. The only question is how bad it will have to get before we face the unavoidable. We will have to learn on a global scale some of the hard lessons that successful societies have gradually and grudgingly learned within national borders: that there must be common ground between rich and poor, among competing ethnic groups, and between society and nature.
The central theme of Jeffrey Sachs's new book is that we need a new economic paradigm-global, inclusive, cooperative, environmentally aware, science based-because we are running up against the realities of a crowded planet. The alternative is a worldwide economic collapse of unprecedented severity. Prosperity will have to be sustained through more cooperative processes, relying as much on public policy as on market forces to spread technology, address the needs of the poor, and to husband threatened resources of water, air, energy, land, and biodiversity. The soft issues of the environment, public health, and population will become the hard issues of geopolitics. New forms ofglobal politics will in important ways replace capital-city-dominated national diplomacy and intrigue. National governments, even the United States, will become much weaker actors as scientific networks and socially responsible investors and foundations become the more powerful actors. If we do the right things, there is room for all on the planet. We can achieve the four key goals of a global society: prosperity for all, the end of extreme poverty, stabilization of the global population, and environmental sustainability. These are not utopian goals or pipe dreams, yet they are far from automatic. Indeed, we are not on a successful trajectory now to achieve these goals. Common Wealth points the way to the course correction we must embrace for the sake of our common future.
"In this sobering but optimistic manifesto, development economist Sachs (The End of Poverty) argues that the crises facing humanity are daunting — but solutions to them are readily at hand. Sachs focuses on four challenges for the coming decades: heading off global warming and environmental destruction; stabilizing the world's population; ending extreme poverty; and breaking the political logjams that hinder global cooperation on these issues. The author analyses economic data, demographic trends and climate science to create a lucid, accessible and suitably grim exposition of looming problems, but his forte is elaborating concrete, pragmatic, low-cost remedies complete with benchmarks and budgets. Sachs's entire agenda would cost less than 3% of the world's annual income, and he notes that a mere two days' worth of Pentagon spending would fund a comprehensive antimalaria program for Africa, saving countless lives. Forthright government action is the key to avoiding catastrophe, the author contends, not the unilateral, militarized approach to international problems that he claims is pursued by the Bush administration. Combining trenchant analysis with a resounding call to arms, Sachs's book is an important contribution to the debate over the world's future." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
One cannot fault Jeffrey D. Sachs for lack of ambition. In his last book, "The End of Poverty" (2005), the Columbia University professor and director of the (modestly named) Earth Institute offered a plan to eliminate extreme poverty by the year 2025. In his latest book, Sachs ups the ante. He argues in "Common Wealth" that the problems of global warming, biodiversity, water scarcity, overpopulation... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) and global poverty all can be solved in an affordable manner. In laying out this case, Sachs makes a significant contribution to a peculiar genre of nonfiction: the Great Global Scheme. Economists ranging from Hernando de Soto to Joseph Stiglitz have written in this genre, in which (typically) a great economist diagnoses the world's ills, then proposes sweeping policies to cure them. Political scientists often read the prescriptions with amusement because the author almost always relies on the "political will" of leaders. Indeed, by Page 11, Sachs has already declared, "We don't need to break the bank, we only need common goodwill." This is a polite way of hoping that powerful politicians will ignore powerful political incentives. To be fair, Sachs deploys a number of gambits to make the case for the political viability of his plans. The first is to stress past examples of international cooperation. As he repeatedly observes, there have been successes: the so-called green revolution in crop yields, the eradication of smallpox and the protection of stratospheric ozone, for example. The second gambit is to embrace technological optimism. Sachs is a big fan of carbon capture and sequestration and other innovations that could reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. He also thinks genetically modified crops could help reduce the use of water in agriculture. The third tactic is to stress the relative affordability of his plans. Sure, trillions of dollars might sound like a lot of money, but Sachs stresses that his proposals would cost only about 2 percent of global income per year. Yet his book's argumentation is open to question. On international cooperation, Sachs tends to highlight past successes rather than failures. Still, he cannot help but note some dismal outcomes, such as that the United Nations biodiversity convention "has now disappeared from the world's radar screen entirely" and that global population policy "has been hijacked by shortsighted ideology." Sachs' technological optimism is refreshing, but it is unclear whether even his ideological allies — environmentalists, U.N. enthusiasts, the rock star Bono (who wrote the foreword for his last book) — would concur. The transgenic crops that "Common Wealth" touts are a big no-no in the European Union, for example. More generally, many environmentalists reject the idea that technology alone can cure man's sins. "Common Wealth" echoes their moralistic outlook: "Our own species' hunger for resources," Sachs writes, "has led us to become the single most destructive force on Earth for the rest of life." That does not inspire much confidence in technological solutions. On the price of curbing global warming, Sachs asserts that, "Yes, there will be a fight over allocating costs, but it need not be a huge battle." To appreciate the cognitive dissonance required for that statement, consider that the so-called Doha round of world trade talks has lasted seven years so far, with no resolution in sight. Trade liberalization is a negotiating process that countries ostensibly view as having a win-win outcome. If the great powers cannot agree to reduce agricultural subsidies, is it realistic to think they will easily agree on how to tackle global warming, when the costs are higher and the benefits more ambiguous and long-term? There are times in "Common Wealth" when this reader began to wonder if Sachs' plan to generate political momentum for his solutions was to bore his critics to death. The problem is not excessive economics jargon; Sachs makes the economics of his argument accessible to everyone. No, the problem is that he feels the need to explain the relevant science in as pedantic a manner as possible. We learn about the wonders of the triple bond that holds two nitrogen atoms together, the significance of the Earth's albedo and the stunning fact that "without drinking water there is no survival beyond a few days." Still, Sachs identifies problems that range from serious to grave, and some of his solutions might well be achievable. His proposals on population, for example, include reducing infant mortality, increasing education for girls, fostering another green revolution and promoting urbanization. A few of his other ideas, such as a global version of the National Institutes of Health, are worth pondering. The book's biggest flaw is that it does not seriously address the question of global governance. At the outset, Sachs acknowledges the problem of "outdated institutions." This matters a lot, given the necessity of effective multilateral institutions to implement all of his grand schemes. In the end, "Common Wealth" blithely assumes that the United Nations system will be capable of running the show. Instead of addressing the knotty question of how to improve global governance structures, Sachs detours into superfluous and unoriginal critiques of U.S. foreign policy. "Common Wealth" is likely to go the way of other Great Global Schemes: dismissed as unrealistic and quickly overtaken by events. Economists like Sachs need to acquire a better feel for the politics that underlie the status quo they detest, or the rest of us will be buried under these ineffectual tomes. Reviewed by Daniel W. Drezner, who is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[An] eloquent plea and a solid argument for global economic and political cooperation. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Sachs condenses a bewildering volume of statistical data into an accessible form, neatly sums up his core arguments in bullet-point lists, and somehow manages to leave one feeling optimistic about the future of the planet." Booklist
"Common Wealth explains the most basic economic reckoning that the world faces. We can address poverty, climate change, and environmental destruction at a very modest cost today with huge benefits for shared and sustainable prosperity and peace in the future, or we can duck the issues today and risk a potentially costly reckoning in later years. Despite the rearguard opposition of some vested interests, policies to help the world's poor and the global environment are in fact the very best economic bargains on the planet." Al Gore, Winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and Former Vice President of the United States
"Jeffrey Sachs never disappoints. With powerful illustrations and moving words, he describes what humanity must do if we are to share a common future on this planet. By making sense of economics as it affects the lives of people, this book is an excellent resource for all those who want to understand what changes the 21st century may bring." Kofi Annan, winner of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize and former secretary-general of the United Nations
From one of the world's greatest economic minds and author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty comes this clear map of the road to sustainable and equitable global prosperity, and a warning of the economic collapse that lies ahead if policies aren't changed.
From one of the world's greatest economic minds, author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty, a clear and vivid map of the road to sustainable and equitable global prosperity and an augury of the global economic collapse that lies ahead if we don't follow it.
In Common Wealth, Jeffrey D. Sachs-one of the world's most respected economists and the author of The New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty- offers an urgent assessment of the environmental degradation, rapid population growth, and extreme poverty that threaten global peace and prosperity. Through crystalline examination of hard facts, Sachs predicts the cascade of crises that awaits this crowded planet-and presents a program of sustainable development and international cooperation that will correct this dangerous course. Few luminaries anywhere on the planet are as schooled in this daunting subject as Sachs, and this is the vital product of his experience and wisdom.
About the Author
Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. He is the author of The New York Times bestseller, The End of Poverty, and is internationally renowned for his work as an economic adviser to governments around the world.
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