Sachs, Jeffrey. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.
Jeffrey Sachs makes a compelling neo-liberal argument that the world
can successfully eliminate extreme poverty as a thing of the past, at
least in the countries whose governments will allow aid. And that it
can be achieved by 2025, and that direct foreign investment is the way to do it.
Is this an unbelievable proposition? Being in some third world
countries myself, it’s obvious which ones are on what Sachs calls “the first rung of the
economic ladder,” meaning that they are slowly “improving,” and which ones are in
desperate need of a jump-start to get on that ladder.
That’s the basic idea Sachs presents, that once a country is able to
maintain a surplus, it will then be able to pull itself out of
poverty. The capitalist contradiction to Sachs is also its redemptive point.
But most of these countries are caught in “poverty traps,”
where they are continually losing capital every year. The way to pull
them out is not altruistic, but through targeted foreign investment.
While some of this book feels like finger-waving, the parts when Sachs
talks about the cultural barriers to economic prosperity are
especially interesting. Fertility rates, women’s rights, ethnic
minorities and their treatment, and religion, all play tantamous roles
in the poverty trap, and can be the final “barriers” that keep a
In that sense, fighting a war against poverty on the cultural front is
a desperately needed tactic, except that most experts of culture are
so morally relative that to suggest reforming a culture for sound
economic growth might seem something of an injustice.
Sachs also stresses the need for multiculturalism and migration (167).
He doesn’t mean politically correct multiculturalism, but the equal
rights of all minorities as well as fair political representation. To
eliminate extreme poverty, gender biases, racial biases, and class
biases must all be brought to a minimum.
To encourage the reader, Sachs gives 10 pivotal examples of such
efforts that have changed the face of poverty, and eliminated it
from half of the world’s population to a current one third:
1. The Green Ravolution (Rockefeller and Norman Borlaugh’s High-yield
2. WHO’s eradication of smallpox in 1980.
3. UNICEF’s Campaign for child survival.
4. The Gates fund and the 50 or so million vaccinated children.
5. WHO’s attempted effacement of malaria using DDT and chloroquine.
6. WHO, World Band and the UN’s control of African River Blindness
7. Eradication of Polio by WHO
8 Modern contraception campaigns by the United Nations Population Fund.
9. Free Trade Zones in Asia (Free Processing Zone)
10. Mobile Phones in Bangladesh by the Grameen bank (microfinance bank).