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Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet Hardcover – 27 Mar 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Printing edition (27 Mar. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713999195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713999198
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 3.8 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 585,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

aLucid, quietly urgent, and relentlessly logical... this is Bigthink with a capital B.a
a"The New York Times Book Review"
aJeffrey Sachs never disappoints. . . . This book is an excellent resource for all those who want to understand what changes the twenty-first century may bring.a
aKofi Annan, winner of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize and former secretary-general of the United Nations
a"Common Wealth" explains the most basic economic reckoning that the world faces.a
aAl Gore, winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and former vice president of the United States

"Lucid, quietly urgent, and relentlessly logical... this is Bigthink with a capital B."
-"The New York Times Book Review"
"Jeffrey Sachs never disappoints. . . . This book is an excellent resource for all those who want to understand what changes the twenty-first century may bring."
-Kofi Annan, winner of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize and former secretary-general of the United Nations
""Common Wealth" explains the most basic economic reckoning that the world faces."
-Al Gore, winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and former vice president of the United States --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Jeffrey D. Sachs is Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and the global best-selling author of The End of Poverty. He is also the BBC’s Reith Lecturer for 2007 and is internationally renowned for his work as an economic advisor to governments around the world.


Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is not so much a book about economics as it is a political manifesto. Professor Sachs is on the faculty at the School of International and Public Affairs and is director of the Earth Institute, both at Columbia University. He is also Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and was previously Special Advisor to Kofi Annan, Director of the UN Millennium Project, and was advisor to a number of governments around the world at times of economic crisis. In 2007 some of his students at Columbia sought to get him to run for president. In short, Sachs is not "just" an academic, but a man with a mission, and this book is a call to action.

Sachs considers that, with 6.6bn people, we live on a "very crowded planet". (There are those who disagree: see Julian Simon and his followers, for example (there are some excellent lectures on YouTube), who believe that there need be no practical upper limit to the number of people on the planet.) Personally, however, I am instinctively with Sachs on this one, and even if Simon turns out to be right I would rather we approached further population increases rather cautiously. Sachs demonstrates how the key to lowering population growth depends above all on reducing infant mortality in those areas of greatest poverty that are also the areas of highest population growth - sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and some parts of South America. That in turn depends as much on reducing that poverty as tackling disease directly, and that on education, appropriate investments and support, economic participation in the global economy, etc. These were the subject of the "Millennium Promises" that the developed world made in 2000 but which, as Sachs points out, are a long way from being delivered.
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Format: Hardcover
'Commonwealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet', is Sach's follow-up to 'The End of Poverty', an important book that showed how poverty could be realistically ended by 2025. Here he addresses one of the main weaknesses of his previous book, that the environmental crisis was barely factored into his thinking. 'Commonwealth' dedicates a whole section to environmental sustainability, alongside sections on demographics, poverty alleviation, and global cooperation.

Unfortunately, it's still the environment where Sachs falls down. The sections on water and conservation are useful, but climate change is summarily cured with the hope that "powerful technologies will likely be available to enable us to mitigate the climate shocks at very modest cost". He also dismisses the oil crisis, saying we have enough fossil fuels "for this century", despite a wealth of information to the contrary.

His analysis is much better on population, with some harsh truths for the US government on its policies in Africa. On the development side Sachs continues his championing of the Millennium Development Goals, and the Millennium Villages project. Sachs does what he does best here, pricing up change to show just how affordable it is, showing that the problem is a lack of will, not of resources. All the development initiatives recommended here would cost no more than 0.7% of the rich world's income, which is what we have already promised in aid.

The idea at the heart of 'Commonwealth' is a call for greater international cooperation. "The main problem," writes Sachs, "is not the absence of reasonable and low-cost solutions, but the difficulty of implementing global cooperation to put those solutions in place." This is the point world leaders should hear loudest and clearest from Sach's latest book: that all our biggest problems can be solved, but global problems need global solutions, and we need to learn to work together.
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Format: Paperback
This book covers a range of challenges facing the world and is optimistic in suggesting solutions.
Commonwealth contains a number of startling insights. First, the human domination of major components of our world. Humanity controls 45% of the land, around 60% of the water cycle and nearly 80% of marine fisheries. Agriculture is the principal user of water and uses as much as all the rest of the demand put together. As a result the Ganges, the Yellow River and the Rio Grande no longer reach the sea because the water is abstracted along the way. We are using groundwater, otherwise known as "fossil water" because it's been trapped underground for millions of years, in the mistaken belief that it's an infinite resource.

Sachs shows how we can address these problems and in particular the problem of population growth. He shows how government intervention is essential and demonstrates that the free-market economies will not address these problems. He also shows that social welfare economies outspend both free markets and mixed economies on R&D, they contribute more in aid and have the lowest proportion of their domestic population in poverty.

Sachs is an American, but that does not stop him from criticizing his country. He complains that poverty in the US is more widespread than in even the average free-market economy. The US struggles to meet its 0.7% GDP target for foreign aid, yet spent $572bn on the military in 2007. This is nearly as much as the whole of the military spending by all the other countries in the world. Spend on humanitarian and development aid by the US was just £14bn. In Sachs' opinion, few of the world's current problems can be solved by military means.

This book was written and published in 2008. It closed on an optimistic note.
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