The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs

The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilites for Our Time
Jeffrey D. Sachs
December 2005
416 pages
Nonfiction, Economics

Reading The End of Poverty really illuminated for me the fact that economics is just not my thing.  I may care about these issues, I may be passionate about the idea of ending poverty forever, and I may THINK that this book will help me to reformulate my ideas and beliefs about how this can happen.  While all these things are true, I still had a really, really hard time with this book.

I hate that.  I feel as though I’m not smart enough to grasp the concepts Sachs set forth here.  I know that’s not true, but this econ thing is just not for me.

Why don’t I attempt to explain the premise of the book?  Basically, after Jeffrey Sachs spent twenty-some-odd years advising different countries on how to deal with their economic issues, he decided that it’s actually possible, and in fact would be remarkably simple, to eradicate poverty on this planet if we do the right things.  Sachs first spent several chapters detailing the work he’s done in other countries, what’s been accomplished in some of the poorest places in the world and what has yet to be done, and then puts together a systematic and common-sense analysis of what we can do, what we NEED to do, to eradicate extreme poverty from the face of the earth for good.

I most enjoyed the chapters detailing Sachs’ work with different governments and economics experts around the world.  I found it fascinating to read about the progress that has been made in some places, in such short time periods, with little aid from other countries.  Obviously a lot more needs to be done, in those countries and others, or he wouldn’t have had to write the book, but the progress that’s been made in some places is remarkable to read about.

But when Sachs starts talking facts, figures, and graphs, my eyes start to glaze over and I have a hard time getting the information into my brain (and making it stay there).  I’m sure most of what he put forth makes perfect sense, but I had an extremely rough time analyzing his arguments.  I am just not good with all the numbers, plain and simple.

I feel like I’m smarter for having read and attempted to understand this book.  And there were parts I definitely enjoyed, definitely learned something from.  But generally, economics is just not my thing, and I suppose I need to be okay with that.


13 thoughts on “The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs”

  1. I’ve wanted to read this book for a while, though it’s been on my long-list. I think if you don’t like a particular subject, there’s definitely nothing to be ashamed about. It doesn’t mean you aren’t smart enough. It just means that there are other things you’d probably rather be doing with your time.

    Having said that, have you read “Freakonomics?” It’s supposed to be a layman’s introduction to the way economics effects our lives. Also, you might want to try “Naked Economics: Understanding the Dismal Science.” Don’t let the plain cover fool you. The author is a really good writer and also pretty funny. Maybe after reading this, some of the things Sachs talks about will make a little more sense?

    1. Thanks, JS! I actually have read Freakonomics. My hubby and I listened to it on audio on a road trip a few years back, and I really enjoyed it, although not really for the intellectual factor, more for the entertainment factor. It’s kinda “pop econ” if such a thing exists.

      Maybe Naked Economics would be more interesting. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I second J.S.; not liking a subject doesn’t make you not-smart! I’m glad that you got a bit out of this one; I think I recommended it as a good intro to econ, and if so I’m sorry about that. Good for you sticking with it!

    (I didn’t like Freakonomics, because it seemed like pretty much ‘junk science’ but that’s just me.)

    1. Thanks, Eva! I think you did recommend it; however, I’ve had the book on my “to read” list for pretty much FOREVER so don’t think you forced me to read it – by no means is that true! So don’t be sorry. Plus, I’m glad I read the book, I just wasn’t able to grasp it as well as I wanted to. I’m sure if I read the book again or tried harder I would do better. But I don’t really want to. 😉

      Like I said above, I did enjoy Freakonomics, but I agree with you that “junk science” is a good way to describe it. It didn’t really teach me anything but I was certainly entertained.

  3. don’t fret–i don’t think that this book was intended to be a beach read! you gave it your best shot and reviewed it fairly even though it wasn’t your cup of tea. i’m not sure i would have even attempted this one, so i give you bonus points for moxie!

  4. This has been on my list for quite some time too – Jeffrey Sachs spoke to our class when I was getting my MPH at Columbia and his presentation sparked my interest in the book. But I must be intimidated by it because every time it comes closer to the top of the list I find another book I need to read! Now I am getting on audio to see if that makes it easier to tackle. thanks for the review – good to know I am not alone!

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