Thursday, May 22, 2008
Common Wealth Economics For A Crowded Planet by Jeffrey D. Sachs is about how to address pressing common human global problems: global environmental issues, population planning, sustainable development, and persistent poverty. It is written in very clear, understandable language. There is no academic jargon here. These issues will affect everyone rich and poor alike.
If we do not address these issues at the source, our security is threatened. For example, the crisis in Ethopia and Sudan can be traced back to lack of water, arable land, and overpopulation. This pushes people into warfare and conflict over very limited resources.
Human beings are now the major cause for environmental change: desertification, global warming, species loss, and industrial pollution are caused by human beings. Jeffrey Sachs sets down a set of specific goals on how to reach these ends.
The problem here is that he couches the goals in the language of the left and the language of the United Nations which can be disconcerting at times. Jeffrey Sachs has worked with United Nations Millenium Project. His language is very much focused on international peace and diplomacy. He wants to considerably reduce global armaments and put the money into peaceful development.
This is quite idealistic. One of the advantages of this approach is that it is a soft power approach, based on diplomacy, development, culture, and superior technical knowledge something which the United States has not followed at all in recent years. He claims that if we do not address these issues we will have more terrorists, more wars, more underdevelopment, and more conflict.
The problem is one of how to balance the need to change underlying problems and still at the same time deal with the issues of terrorism and security.
There is going to be quite a bit of opposition to his ideas from the right as well. He pushes for a combination of family planning and pre-natal care. This is to reduce population pressure and encourage people to have less children. This will be hard to fund because many lobbyists do work against birth control.
I happen to think that his ideas on development are quite interesting. He puts forth the idea that government, society, and business are inseperable. In order for business to move forward infrastructure like roads, schools, and telecommunications need to be built. It is as important to make sure there is an adquate food supply as there are free market reforms.
At the end of many of the chapters, he gives examples on how to address specific problems that are fairly practical. For example in the section on climate change he endorses carbon sequestration and hybrid cars. For persistent poverty, he claims that people should drill wells in communities, open schools, introduce school lunch programs provided by indigenous farmers, distribute new seed stocks, distribute new breeds of livestock, and remove any leftover ordnance from old wars in the countryside.
If you strip away a lot of the political talk, this book gives quite a few good examples on how to address common human problems. I think it is worth reading for the solutions described, not the politics.
Jeffrey D. Sachs is the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on the Millenium Development Goals.
This book is well written and easy to follow. It has notes, a bibliography, and an index. There are eight pages of full color illustrations. I would have liked more illustrations in this book.