Couldn't read it when I realized that he has the standard economist's answer to shortages of vital materials--we will find substitutes. Common Wealth : Economics for a Crowded Planet. Jeffrey Sachs. From one of the world's greatest economic minds, author of The New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty , a clear and vivid map of the road to sustainable and equitable global prosperity and an augury of the global economic collapse that lies ahead if we don't follow it The global economic system now faces a sustainability crisis, Jeffrey Sachs argues, that will overturn many of our basic assumptions about economic life. The changes will be deeper than a rebalancing of economics and politics among different parts of the world; the very idea of competing nation-states scrambling for power, resources, and markets will, in some crucial respects, become pass.
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After no little delay, the economists have now joined the natural scientists in warning of a dire future for humanity. Last year, the British government published the Stern review on the economics of climate change.
Now Jeffrey Sachs, a well-known US economist with an interest in poverty, has presented his proposals for how the world is to be saved. In Sachs's view, global warming is just one of four related menaces to our civilisation.
The others are a population explosion, extreme poverty, particularly in Africa, and quarrelsome and ineffective world government. He believes he can unseat all four horsemen of our apocalypse with one shot and at no great sacrifice of our creature comforts either now or in the future. These are substantial quantities but, Sachs argues in the same vein as Stern, much preferable to the alternative.
Sachs's argument, which is good-natured and courteous, is that there is no shortage of resources on Earth. There is, after all, more than enough sunlight to keep 6 billion people in the comforts to which they have become accustomed - and for some millennia to come. The technical skill and wisdom human beings have so far used to appropriate the natural environment might just be deployed for its restoration.
Sachs, who was well known in the past for violent free-market experiments in Bolivia and post-Soviet Russia, seems to have had a sort of Damascene moment. To the great scandal of many economists in Britain and the US, he has lost faith in markets to allocate nature's bounty in a manner conducive to the sustainable prosperity of the whole. Sachs argues that free markets cannot guarantee that sustainable technologies will be adopted in industry and agriculture, and anyway leave the poorest out of their ambit.
Since last August, when Mr Market was found in bed with the help, and bankers started baying for public assistance, these sentences will seem less scandalous. Indeed, Sachs's international New Deal liberalism might even set the tone for a Democrat administration, should one be elected in November.
Sachs's second contention is that the untrammelled competition of nations must be replaced by cooperation. His particular complaint is that recent US administrations, rather than providing international leadership as in the age of the Marshall Plan and the Peace Corps, have been distracted by wasteful and sanguinary wars of no clear purpose and suspicious of multilateral institutions such as the UN. Meanwhile, as Sachs argues, new great powers such as China and India and troublesome secondary powers, such as Iran have to be accommodated into the international system, preferably without world war.
For all Sachs's energy and optimism, I found his book quite unconvincing. Nature is not simply a technical or economical resource, and human beings are not mere numbers. To suggest that one can somehow align all the squabbling institutions of science, environmental management, government and diplomacy in an alliance of convenience to regulate the global climate seems to me optimistic.
Above all, to argue that the rich world can go on living at ease, while the rising powers and the developing nations catch up, and all for parts per million of atmospheric carbon, risks misleading the public. Stern now regrets the optimism of his report last year. In these passages, Sachs appears to me like one of those passionate saviour-economists of the 18th century, such as John Law or Jacques Necker, who won over bankrupt monarchies to great and reasonable projects and cost them their thrones.
The truth is, of course, that history is not completed in modern commerce any more than philosophy is perfected in political economy.
In other words, there is nothing timeless or God-given about filling stations and penicillin and plastic bags. Adam Smith, the founder of the economical school, knew well that the progress in human history from poverty to opulence could be disrupted or reversed.
The world survived the fall of the Roman empire and will no doubt outlast our own so much more splendid civilisation. Topics Books. Climate change Society books reviews. Reuse this content. Most popular.
Mar 18, Minutes Buy. In Common Wealth , Jeffrey D. Through crystalline examination of hard facts, Sachs predicts the cascade of crises that awaits this crowded planet-and presents a program of sustainable development and international cooperation that will correct this dangerous course. Few luminaries anywhere on the planet are as schooled in this daunting subject as Sachs, and this is the vital product of his experience and wisdom.
After no little delay, the economists have now joined the natural scientists in warning of a dire future for humanity. Last year, the British government published the Stern review on the economics of climate change. Now Jeffrey Sachs, a well-known US economist with an interest in poverty, has presented his proposals for how the world is to be saved. In Sachs's view, global warming is just one of four related menaces to our civilisation. The others are a population explosion, extreme poverty, particularly in Africa, and quarrelsome and ineffective world government.
Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet
The central premise of this wide-ranging book is that the current trajectory of human activity is not sustainable. Continued growth in income and population -- marks of success by some measure -- will not lead to an exhaustion of natural resources, as is sometimes feared. It will, however, lead to increased ecological stress, especially in the forms of climate change, a loss of biodiversity, and regional shortages of fresh water. Combined with persistent poverty and continued population growth -- particularly among idle young men -- this stress will lead to civil turmoil, transborder migration, and fragile or failed states vulnerable to terrorism and crime. For Sachs, these challenges are not occasion for despair about the future but rather lead him to call for vigorous cooperative action on a global scale -- requiring a markedly different approach to foreign policy by all countries, especially the United States.