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The following article appeared in Left Business Observer #111, August 2005. It retains its copyright and may not be reprinted or redistributed in any form - print, electronic, facsimile, anything - without the permission of LBO.
The long, strange career of Jeffrey Sachs
Jeffrey D. Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, Penguin Press, 416 pp., $27.95
Jeffrey Sachs is a complicated guy. His first claim to fame was as the doctor who administered "shock therapy" in Bolivia, Poland, and Russia. Now he's Bono's traveling companion. Bono wrote the intro to Sachs's latest book ("My professor.... In time, his autograph will be worth a lot more than mine"), and Sachs gushes all over Bono in the text ("Bono brilliantly brought the AIDS tragedy to the attention of several key leaders of the religious right...").
This book is a manifesto and how-to guide on ending extreme poverty around the world. The subtitle, "Economic Possibilities for Our Time," echoes Keynes's famous 1928 essay, "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren," which forecast, rightly, that we would be able to meet all the basic material needs of humankind two generations later - essentially today. We could, but we don't. Worldwide, about 1 billion people live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day, the official definition of extreme poverty; 2 billion live on less than $2, which officialdom considers normal poverty. These estimates have been criticized for being too low, and the definition of poverty for being too crude, but still, the numbers are criminally large.
Sachs uses this book to promote the UN's Millennium Development Goals (on which he is an advisor to Secretary General Kofi Annan), which were agreed to by 147 heads of state gathered in New York in September 2000. These include halving the numbers of the extremely poor and halving the numbers of the hungry by 2015; achieving universal literacy and primary education; promoting gen