Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet

That’s the new Jeff Sachs book.  It promotes resource pessimism, Nordic-style social democracy, foreign aid, and a fundamental rethinking of U.S. foreign policy.  Most of all it expresses a faith in global cooperation.  Sachs is very smart and, though I do not agree with him, there is often more to his views than his critics admit.  But my browsing of this book never gave me the feeling that I had access to the mind of Jeffrey Sachs.  It doesn’t even read like a popularization.  Imagine a smart and diligent but not insightful or self-reflective person doing a "color by numbers" version of what a Jeffrey Sachs book should read like.


To Marxist thinkers, there is the vulgar Marx of the Communist Manifesto, and the real, more subtle Marx of the Eighteenth Brumaire. Perhaps Commonwealth is simply the vulgar Sachs? I think so, but have never been sure. In graduate school I spent a semester as his TA for a course on development--one that preceded The End of Poverty by a couple of years. We saw a slightly more subtle view in lectures, and I saw hints of much more, and I always regretted not being able to get deeper. The meetings we had always concerned class matters, and the handful of times I thought I had time to get deeper into the lecture material, our meetings were interrupted by phone calls from the Pope and Bono. They were for Jeff. I guess I'll have to wait for his Eigthteenth Brumaire.

The third world in which Sach's prescriptions would work looks more like Teletubby-land than the actual low-income countries I lived in.

Given how ridiculously vapid his _The End of Poverty_ was, you'll have to do more than this to sell me on it. Does he actually go beyond platitudes? Give numbers and graphs, regimes for increasing values?

Or, is this just another surefire way to score some Amazon referral bucks?

On second reading, it's clear that you are not actually recommending the book, just hocking it. Kudos for honesty.

For some reason this sparked my memory of TV series I saw on PBS a few years ago when I was researching development.

I liked this Great Decisions episode where Sebastian Mallaby describes the "Rock Bottom Effect".

Just thought I'd share it.

I also dug up of a list of references I liked, I'll post it on my web log after I leave the office today.

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