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The End of Poverty

The main argument of the author of the book The End of Poverty is that it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty in the world provided there is enough goodwill from the wealthy countries for achieving this goal. According to Jeffrey Sachs, the amount of resources required to rescue the world’s population that is afflicted by extreme poverty is less than one percent of the richest countries’ annual income.

Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs has achieved global fame as a professor of economics, champion of sustainable development, top United Nations advisor, author of several blockbusters, and a columnist in globally followed newspaper articles. The Times Magazine of the US has included him twice among the world’s most influential leaders of the 21st century. The New York Times has touted him as ‘‘perhaps the most important economist in the world,’’ while the Times Magazine has called him ‘’the world’s best known economist.’’ A current survey carried out by the Economist Magazine placed him among the top three most prominent surviving economists of the previous decade in the world.

Currently, he is serving as the Director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University and the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Health Policy Management. In addition, he has served as a special advisor on Millennium Development Goals to two UN secretaries - Ban Ki-Moon and Kofi Annan. He has founded several organizations for fighting world poverty, such as the Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance and the Millennium Villages Project. During the previous seven years, he has written three New York Times’ blockbuster books: The End of Poverty, Economics for a Crowded Planet, and The Price of Civilization.

Jeffrey Sachs is largely regarded as a world leading authority in terms of economic development as well as poverty eradication. His ideas on eradicating poverty, spurring economic growth, combating hunger and diseases, and supporting sustainable environmental policies have seen him traverse about 125 countries that harbor more than ninety percent of the total world’s population. In his career, which spans more than 25 years, he has counseled numerous presidents and governments on economic matters in America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. In addition, he was the advisor of John Paul II in the preparation of the encyclical Centesimus Annus. Sachs has also worked with international institutions such as the African Union, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme among others.

His work in general has been fundamental in several major points of the globalization process in the last thirty years. During the 1980s, Sachs assisted various Latin American nations, among which are Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia, to bring hyperinflation and staggering public debts to an end. Moreover, he advocated for the reduction of external debts owed to the US by developing countries, and many of his concepts were assimilated in the global strategies of debt reduction of the 1980s.

Sachs’s concepts of shifting from the central planning to market economies have been successfully applied in many countries. In 1991, for instance, he assisted Slovenia and Estonia to phase in new stable as well as convertible currencies. He also helped Russia and Poland to transition into market economies, besides becoming the advisor to both governments on policies of macroeconomic character.

Nowadays, Jeffrey Sachs is involved with planning of economic reforms in Asia, especially China and India. He has worked as a top advisor to India’s government and his ideas were pivotal in the introduction of rural healthcare policies in the country.

The Author’s School of Thought

Jeffrey Sachs believes that world poverty can be eradicated at a very small cost to the rich countries. This claim by Professor Sachs leads us to the question, ‘‘If the rich-nations have the ability to end global poverty, why have they not done so?’’Thus, the argument is either unrealistic or the rich countries are not philanthropic enough so as to end world poverty.

According to Sachs, the key to ending extreme poverty lies in helping poor countries to think technologically. Poverty results from low productivity. People from poor countries cannot produce enough simply because they do not have the tools required to aid production. These tools are basic inputs for enhancing farm yields beyond subsistence levels for the rural folk. For urban centers, the tools include internet connectivity, electricity, and efficient transport systems. Sachs contends that poor countries need these tools to become economically independent, but they simply cannot afford to buy them.

Professor Sachs further contends that it would take less than one percent of the Gross National Product of the rich countries to eradicate extreme poverty in the world. This income would be adequate to stimulate long-term economic development in the world’s poorest nations. Additionally, removing extreme poverty from the world would help to boost sustainable global security efforts.

Sachs thinks that leaving the issue of extreme poverty to be solved by the free market mechanism would be inappropriate because the extremely poor people are basically isolated from markets. These people do not even grow adequate food for subsistence, leave alone bringing it to the markets. In addition, they have no access to electricity, roads, schools, clinics, and other fundamental aspects of the modern economy.

Important Aspects of the Authors Background

Jeffrey Sachs is an economics professor at Columbia University. He has served as an advisor on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to two secretaries of the United Nations - Kofi Annan and presently Ban Ki-moon. It can be argued that his ideas on how to end global poverty are based on both theory and practice, considering the experience he has gained while working with the UN and as an intellectual. Sachs has helped numerous governments to improve their economies and to transition from controlled to market models. Apart from that, he has traversed about 125 countries, which host more than ninety percent of the total world’s population. Therefore, his arguments are not based on pure theory but on practice as well.

Evidence Presented by the Author to Support his Thesis

Jeffrey Sachs has based his argument of ending world poverty on global economic statistics. The author claims that over 1 billion of the world’s population consists of the super-rich, 4 billion are middle-income earners, and about 1 billion are extremely poor, earning less than one dollar a day. The extremely poor people lack even the most basic human necessities like adequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care. Sachs uses the US economy as an example of how the stinginess of the rich countries has undermined the efforts of ending global poverty. With a per capita income of over 40,000 dollars, the author contends that more increased aid to poor countries by the US would eradicate poverty to a very large extent. He also cites the example of China, which has managed to double the living standards of its population in less than ten year interval over the last few decades.

The Author’s Use of Evidence and How He Deals with Counter-Evidence

Jeffrey Sachs employs both statistical and historical evidence as well as case studies to argue out his case. For instance, the author claims that everyone was living in extreme poverty two hundred years ago except the nobility. This situation was, however, changed by the industrial revolution, which increased the level of productivity around the world. As a result, five sixths of the world’s population - about 5 billion people - is now free from poverty, leaving only one sixth - about 1 billion people - in extreme poverty. Sachs believes that if the industrial revolution was able to reduce world poverty by such a scale, it is possible to uplift one billion people from poverty in a shorter time-period, which, according to his estimates, should not exceed 20 years.

The other form of evidence that the author has used to make his argument is international economic statistics, specifically Gross National Product (GNP) of the rich and poor countries. Sachs claims that over 1 billion people in the rich nations are super-rich and they can afford to uplift the welfare of the other 1 billion who are afflicted by extreme poverty. Moreover, he argues that it would take only 7 cents out of every 10 dollars-less than one percent-of the rich nations’ GNP to spur sustainable economic development in poor countries and, consequently, end global poverty.

The third and last form of evidence used by the author is case studies. For example, Sachs uses the example of China to show that the economy of poor countries can be stimulated to grow at a much higher pace. China’s economy has been growing at an average rate of about 8 percent for several decades now.

Sachs seems to believe so much in the superiority of his ideas that he fails to recognize the concepts of other prominent scholars in the field of economics. Although his concepts have succeeded in rescuing economies from major macroeconomic problems and in helping governments transition to market economies, there are other scholars whose ideas have been applied successfully during the last century and, therefore, it was necessary for him to recognize them in devising his theory of ending global poverty.

Persuasiveness of the Author’s Argument

Jeffrey Sachs provides a critical analysis of the failed economic policies of the World Bank and IMF for stimulating economic development in developing countries. His ideas are based on his extensive travels around the world, consulting with various governments, and practical experiences that contain both successes and failures. Sachs provides compelling evidence that a tremendous transformation is required if global poverty is to be eradicated.  

The author uses a historical view of poverty and several case studies to persuade the reader of the validity of his arguments. His views are not based on pure theory, but also on a first hand encounter of the experiences that the world’s poor go through in various parts of the world.

Compared to other books about poverty, Sachs book is more convincing as it offers more clinical solutions to global poverty. For instance, Michael Todaro in his book Economics for a Developing World takes a rather theoretical view of poverty in developing countries instead of suggesting specific solutions.


Jeffrey Sachs The End of Poverty provides quite radical solutions to the issue of global poverty. The author provides convincing arguments, especially considering that his economic concepts have been successful in various economies in the world and that he has a firsthand encounter of the situation that is being experienced by the world’s poor. The book is more compelling because it offers specific solutions to global poverty rather than a mere description of the situation.

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