The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty

The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty

Nina Munk

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 076792942X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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Recipient of Foreign Policy's 2013 Albie Award

In 2006, Jeffrey Sachs—celebrated economist, special advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and author of the influential bestseller The End of Poverty— launched the Millennium Villages Project, a daring, $120-million experiment designed to test his theories about ending poverty. For six years, Nina Munk shadowed Sachs on his trips to Africa, listened in on conversations with heads-of-state and humanitarian organizations, and immersed herself in the lives of people in two remote African villages.  Munk came to understand the real-life issues that challenge Sachs’s formula for ending global poverty. The Idealist is the profound and moving story of what happens when the abstract theories of a brilliant, driven man meet the realities of human life.

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meeting with Soros, Sachs appealed to the billionaire’s conscience: at stake was nothing less than the lives of millions of people. He compared the yoke of poverty to the yoke of totalitarianism. By promoting economic development in Africa, Soros could play a vital role in promoting global stability—after all, countries destabilized by poverty tend to be havens of unrest, violence, and terrorism. “Most of the work can be done in just one year,” he assured Soros. “The rest is just footnotes.”

far more than it could afford. To finance such runaway spending, the government kept printing more and more pesos; the more pesos it printed, the more worthless its currency became. Bolivia was a textbook case of hyperinflation, the likes of which no one had seen since the early 1920s, in Germany’s Weimar republic. Sachs had never worked outside academe. Nevertheless, as Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, who was then Bolivia’s president of the Senate and the nation’s official economic adviser,

to abandon school because the soldiers were all over and they were looting our homes and stealing and killing people indiscriminately. It was a tormenting time.” To save themselves, the Siriri family fled their home and hid in the bush. In their absence, Idi Amin’s soldiers ransacked the house, destroyed the farm, and stole the oxen. Afterwards Siriri’s mother suffered a stroke. Her brain was damaged and the left side of her body was paralyzed. She was twenty-eight years old. “There was nothing

he was preoccupied with the urgent business of raising money. With the Millennium Villages Project approaching its fifth year, Dertu’s budget had been cut drastically. All the villages faced budget cuts: phase one of the project was winding down, and Jeffrey Sachs was having a hard time convincing donors or venture capital funds to underwrite phase two. In the West, unemployment was way up, people were losing their homes, and poor Africans were no longer a priority (if they ever had been). No

has been described”: Susan Benkelman and Ken Fireman, “The Economy Doctor: Can Jeffrey Sachs’ Prescriptions Save Russia Before Political Unrest Kills the Patient?,” Newsday, 2 February 1992. “shock program will cause disruptions”: Sachs and Lipton, “Summary of the Proposed Economic Program.” “pure, unmitigated disaster”: Weschler, “Grand Experiment.” “In any event”: Sachs and Lipton, “Summary of the Proposed Economic Program.” “Look, when a guy comes into the emergency room”: Sachs quoted in

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