Book Review: Poor Economics

I just finished the book so its still fresh on the mind, it’s called: Poor Economics.poor-economics-book-cover

This is the FIRST book I’ve read that does a good job of explaining both sides of different important issues.

There are a lot of differing [valid] arguments when it comes to how to fight poverty.  What everyone can [finally] agree on is that there is no silver bullet.  It’ll take multiple efforts in varying sectors to really put a dent in poverty.  Most organizations and individuals represent one of two arguments.

The relief argument says that Africa needs more clothes, more food, and more money handed out to the people.

The development argument says that Africa needs to learn to make their own clothes, grow their own food, and produce their own wealth.  How can we help Africa accomplish this self-sustainability?

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time you know squarely where I fall.  I’ve alway said we need to emphasize development and IF we use relief it must be to kickstart the development process.

This book does a good job of explaining why neither relief nor development alone can solve the problem of poverty. It cannot be either/or but both/and.  It is a great overview of almost everything that is currently being done by governments and NGO’s alike.

Food, health, education, family size, children, savings & loans, and politics are all addressed.

This book gives real examples of what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the fight against poverty all over the world.  Its written by two MIT economists that studied 18 different countries over the course of 15 years.

The basic conclusion of the book is that the policies and efforts to fight poverty have failed in the last 50 years because we haven’t truly understood it.  We filter poverty through our personal lenses and make policies or programs based on what we would want if we were in a given situation.  The answer, is to understand it on a ground level and work our way up.

I appreciate that the book emphasizes the fact that true change will come from the bottom up, not the top down.  I also like that it does not ignore the responsibility that those on top do have to advocate for those on bottom.

Its an all around good book, though it can be difficult to get through at times (both authors are professors of economics at MIT).

There are some shortcomings.  It mildly addresses spiritual issues.  The fact is witch doctors, the occult, and many false religions have a strong hold on poverty.  Without truth in the form of a loving God that does not motivate through guilt and fear many people will never break the chains of poverty.

My conclusion: This book has had a significant impact on the world and on me personally when it comes to viewing and aiding the fight against poverty.  Anyone involved in social justice issues that deal with the poor, must have this book on their bookshelf.  If you give money to charities I would highly recommend reading this book to determine if your charity of choice is on the right track to truly put an end to poverty.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Poor Economics

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m going to check it out! It’s tough to find a well-written book on the subject that doesn’t come with an agenda – your comments that this book offers a balanced approach has piqued my interest…

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