“Book and man are brilliant, passionate, optimistic and impatient…Outstanding.” —The Economist
“Sensible, often brilliant analysis of poverty’s root causes and potential solutions…The End of Poverty is superb when describing the dire circumstances of the 1 billion people subsisting on less than $1 a day. It is hard not to share Sachs’s anger after reading his firsthand reporting on the miserly Western aid to African villages ravaged by AIDS, malaria, and hunger.” —Businessweek
“[Paul Wolfowitz] should read Jeffrey Sachs’s compelling new book, The End of Poverty. Sachs, a distinguished economist who has spend the last three decades working with governments around the world, explains that none of these conventional wisdoms gets it right. Much foreign aid has been very well spend and led to landmark results.” —Newsweek
“Sachs must be commended for trying to hold rich nations to their promises, and for reminding his countrymen that military action is not the only way to export American values.” —The New Yorker
“In [The End of Poverty], renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs explains, offers solutions to end extreme poverty by 2025 and, amazingly, leaves you feeling hopeful rather than guilty.” —The Seattle Times
“…An intriguing mix of memoir, economics text, and polemic…more people should read this book.” —Salon
“If there is any one work to put extreme poverty back onto the global agenda, this is it.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“This is an excellent, understandable book on a critical topic and should be required reading for students and participants in public policy as well as those who doubt the problem of world poverty can be solved.” —Mary Whaley, Booklist
“Professor Sachs has provided a compelling blueprint for eliminating extreme poverty from the world by 2025. Sachs’s analysis and proposals are suffused with all the practical experience of his twenty years in the field—working in dozens of countries across the globe to foster economic development and well-being.” —George Soros, financier and philanthropist
“Sachs proposes a many-pronged, needs-based attack…that is eminently practical and minimally pipe-dreamy…A solid, reasonable argument in which the dismal science offers a brightening prospect for the world’s poor.” —Kirkus Reviews
The path from poverty to development has come incredibly fast in the span of human history. Two hundred years ago, the idea that we could potentially achieve the end of poverty would have been unimaginable. Just about everybody was poor with the exception of a very small minority of royals and landed gentry. Life was as difficult in much of Europe as it was in India or China. With very few exceptions, your great-great-grandparents were poor and most likely living on the farm. One leading economic historian, Angus Maddison, puts the average income per person in Western Europe in 1820 at around 90 percent of the average income of sub-Saharan Africa today. Life expectancy in Western Europe and Japan as of 1800 was probably about forty years.
There was little sense a few centuries ago of vast divides in wealth and poverty around the world. China, India, Europe, and Japan all had similar income levels at the time of European discoveries of the sea routes to Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Marco Polo, of course, marveled at the sumptuous wonders of China, not at its poverty. Cortés and his conquistadores expressed astonishment at the riches of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztecs. The early Portuguese explorers in Africa were impressed with the well-ordered towns in West Africa.
Until the mid-1700s, the world was remarkably poor by any of today’s standards. Life expectancy was extremely low; children died in vast numbers in the now rich countries as well as the poor countries. Disease and epidemics, not just the black death of Europe, but many waves of disease, from smallpox and measles to other epidemics, regularly washed through society and killed mass numbers of people. Episodes of hunger and extreme weather and climate fluctuations sent societies crashing. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire, for Arnold Toynbee, was much like the rise and decline of all other civilizations before and since. Economic history had long been one of ups and downs, growth followed by decline, rather than sustained economic progress.
The Novelty of Modern Economic Growth
If we are to understand why vast gaps between rich and poor exist today, we need therefore to understand a very recent period of human history during which these vast gaps opened. The past two centuries, since around 1800, constitute a unique era in economic history, a period that the great economic historian Simon Kuznets famously termed the period of Modern Economic Growth, or MEG for short. Before the era of MEG, indeed for thousands of years, there had been virtually no sustained economic growth in the world and only gradual increases in the human population.