i'm beginning to read jeffrey sachs book, the end of poverty (forward by bono). george hall, a yale economics prof and fellow member of bethesda lutheran here in new haven and I are doing a book reading group over the next couple months.
a blog reader sent me a review from the wall street journal that argues his book is, while noble in its ambitions, ends up looking "a lot less like a guide to ending poverty than a bible for employing aid bureaucrats, and there is a very good chance that it would end up doing more harm than good."
i've complained before (here) about the need for the usa to give more to development aid. we give the largest percentage of money by far (almost double the next largest donor nation, japan), but we're by far the farthest from giving .5 % of our gross domestic product. we currently give about 15 billion and would have to give nearly 55 billion in order to reach .5%. the commission for africa, chaired by british prime minister tony blair, recently released a very detailed report and as part of its recommendations is seeking a commitment of 1% from rich nations to support international development. according to a helpful nytimes article on the commission report, britain, france, spain, ireland, belgium and finland have already committed to this goal. the usa, however, has said it will not and its new budget figures place us aid at around .2% .
bill wrote a comment on my blog post referenced above saying that how generous the usa is depends on how one calculates. fine. we are a nation where philanthropy in some measure makes up for stingy government spending. we're supposedly nervous, constitutionally nervous, about giving over control of how our money is spent. but the issue, i think, is that the amount of money needed is so huge that it is only going to be possible to have adequate money to build infrastructure to eliminate extreme poverty (those who basically are dying) when governments decided that it is in our common interest to do so, and we put up substantial money towards that end.
more on this as we read, and welcome your thoughts