Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
A book of two halves
on 9 November 2012
I wanted to take Jeff Sachs's course in college, but he was never there to teach it. He was too busy saving the world, and the Eastern Block countries in particular, to turn up for his fall semester class in International Economics.
If this book is any guide, that's quite lucky for me.
The book has two parts. In the first, all 175 pages of it, the author exposes what's wrong with the world. In the second part, a mere 90 pages, he offers his solutions.
One star is probably too generous for part one. If it had been written by a Zen Buddhist monk, I'd have been more lenient, I might even be half-impressed. But if this is the best one of the rock star economists of our planet can do, we're in deep trouble. I'm rather liberal in my leanings, this ought to have been right up my alley. Instead, I found myself thinking I need to take my losses and start reading something else.
EVERYBODY knows there's a case to be made for government, everybody knows CEOs are overpaid, everybody knows politicians can be bought, and quite frankly nobody really agrees with some of the weirder stuff Sachs talks about. I know that giants like John Kenneth Galbraith shared the author's aversion for advertizing, but nine out of ten people you ask would not put the advertizing model in their top 100 problems with today's capitalism. Hell, I like ads! And I have no patience for a globetrotting professor telling me I need to worship Gandhi or Buddah. Not if the book is advertised as an economics book. Jeff Sachs has his place in the pantheon of economists, but for my money (which I forked out to buy this opus) he's a crumby philosopher.
But I finished part one of the book and got to part two and my persistence was rewarded. First, somewhere around page 180 (give or take 20 pages, I haven't got the book here) the author tells you what "the price of civilization" is. It's taxes. Hats off to him for keeping that under wraps that long. Even better, his laundry list of solutions / propositions / answers to the world's ills is thorough and clearly presented and, frankly, at odds with the weirdness of the first part of the book. It comprises a list of necessary areas where we need to spend more, places where we can make cuts and ways to raise revenue, all with estimated numbers attached. I'd give four stars to the second 90 pages, with the fifth star missing because he does not back up the proposals with anywhere near as much oomph as they deserve.
Overall, though, I can't help thinking there's some type of ulterior motive to this book. Don't know if Jeff Sachs is trying to move from Economics to Philosophy or from problem solver to Zen master, but what he's doing here is attempting some type of transformation. Two stars.