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Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet

3.61  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,311 Ratings  ·  138 Reviews
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 overtu
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published 2008)
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Nov 24, 2008 Manderson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a brave and uncompromising outline of where our political and economic development must go for our nation and globe to adapt to and mitigate environmental changes and population growth. I hope every public representative in the world reads this.

Jeffrey Sachs picks up from where his The End of Poverty left off, and extends his macroeconomic perspective to the challenges of climate change, population growth, and environmental devastation. He firmly lays waste to the ideological myths of
Feb 20, 2009 Gill rated it liked it
Shelves: africa, economics
In 2003, I was working as an agroforestry extension agent in a remote village in Africa. I had been struggling to get people to plant nitrogen-fixing and fruit trees for a year, to improve agriculture through local inputs (not just fertilizer and expensive seeds) and teach methods of improving plant breeding. Sachs came on VOA and gave a big interview (parroting Pedro Sanchez) about how if we sent more money to Africa, we could plant more nitrogen-fixing trees, and then all the soils would be mu ...more
Jun 05, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it
I had to read this book in stages. It includes a ton of great information, but it's frequently really heavy stuff. I saw Sachs at Politics & Prose in DC reading from the book and lecturing. He's such an amazing person. He meant for the book to be full of heavier and more technical material than his last book, "The End of Poverty". He said that although it might not always be fun to read, we need to know this stuff in order to solve the big problems we face in the future. And that's really wh ...more
Glenn Murphy
Jan 27, 2009 Glenn Murphy rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. I agree with Sachs on most of the issues he covers in this book. But...

I really hate it when people use weak arguments to support ideas I agree with. I think it does more harm than good. I really didn't like how Sachs presents as an established fact that the first human inhabitants of North America hunted large mammals to extinction. He presents this as a historical example of human activity changing the environment. But there is no consensus that this is in fact what
Feb 07, 2010 Anthony rated it it was ok
A rather uninspiring rehash from Sachs covering the breadth of development and environmental issues. For those who are already familiar with either field (and their sustainable development intersection), you won't find much new material here aside from some innovative programs you may not have heard of (e.g., GrameenPhone and Village Phone in Bangladesh). People who have not read the development/environment literature will find Common Wealth to be an accessible introduction, though lacking in su ...more
Nov 25, 2008 Chandra rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book by Sachs, really an encyclopedic reference for the biggest challenges facing humanity. In his typical pragmatic yet optimistic style, Sachs comprehensively describes the crises of global warming, an exploding population, environmental deterioration and poverty, and outlines steps we can take now to do something about them, from the individual to international level. While the truth can sometimes be horrifying (especially exposures of the Bush administration's hindrance on so many ...more
Mar 16, 2015 Becky rated it it was amazing
A wealth of information is delivered to the reader in this book written in 2008. Common Wealth is not only relevant today, but at times it was even a little prophetic, addressing such global issues as extreme poverty and disease, population dynamics, environmental and economic concerns and foreign policy. The author refers to the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ throughout his book – an ambitious set of goals set forth by the United Nations at the start of the new millennium, and with a target yea ...more
Jul 03, 2014 Duncan rated it liked it
Quite the tour de force, Sachs ranges from describing humanity's core environmental challenges (climate change, water use, biodiversity) to explaining the demographic trends and projections for the world (total fertility rate, population momentum, etc.) and his old trope of the ladder of economic development (how countries become prosperous) without leaving out his usual analyses of diverse poverty traps and such. He even gives his perspective on CSR, the role of NGOs, and universities in develo ...more
Jun 25, 2014 Nicole rated it really liked it
First of all, I am NOT an economist...I am far from it. I have trouble balancing my own checkbook let alone deciding how billions of people interact in the world economy. Despite my lack of background knowledge, Common Wealth was a truely engaging, informative, and (dare I say) entertaining read!

I found particularly interesting the chapters on global solutions to climate change and the entire section (two chapters) on demographics and the numbers behind the population increase. In the population
Jan 27, 2016 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
I wouldn't say that Jeffrey Sach's Common Wealth changed the way I think, but it definitely gave me a better framework for understanding the problems of the modern world. His conclusions are generally ones I would already agree with, but I appreciated the detailed, yet easily understandable, discussion and analysis. Overall, this book actually managed to make me feel good about the future of humanity, because it laid out practical steps we could take to make things better. "Hey, we can do this!" ...more
Apr 18, 2010 Nate rated it liked it
My simplified review could be this: this book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, with planet Earth as the tree, and humankind as the boy.
Emily George
Aug 16, 2011 Emily George rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Krishna Kumar
May 03, 2015 Krishna Kumar rated it really liked it
Following up from his earlier book, "The End of Poverty", Jeffrey Sachs lists some solutions for the major challenges facing our planet today: population growth, poverty, climate change, water availability and conflict. This is a contemporary book that combines the use of technology innovations with traditional methods to address those issues. One of the weaknesses of the book is that it does tend to repeat itself and digress into technical jargon, but overall, it is a meaningful book relevant t ...more
Vikki Marshall
Apr 05, 2014 Vikki Marshall rated it really liked it
They say that Jeffrey Sachs is an economist with a vision, but after reading this book his true gift is being one of our most influential humanitarians. Rarely has a modern economist’s focus been geared towards raising awareness about global efforts that can transform the world into a better, more prosperous and functioning place but here Sachs does just that. In absolutely relatable terms he defines answers for climate change, water access, biodiversity issues, population concerns, extreme pove ...more
I want to be the kind of person who reads economics books, but I'm just not. I have tried many, many times. This book is a cheerful call for one world government. Pass. And--not to be all English teachery about it--this dude is in love with parallel structure. Every other sentence is a three part list. It is repetitive, boring, and grates on my nerves. Humanity is no where near ready for what Mr. Sachs is proposing, nor will it ever be, I think. With that said, Dr. Sachs, who I have seen speak b ...more
Apr 05, 2014 Dan rated it really liked it
In 2008 Jeffrey Sachs warned us in this book that "the worlds current ecological, demographic and economic trajectory is unsustainable." The reason: (1) human pressures on the Earth's ecosystems and climate; (2) the world's population growth; (3) extreme poverty; and (4) our inability to do global problem solving due to cynicism, defeatism, and outdated institutions. But he offers hope when he tells us "global cooperation… [has] been enormously successful in the past.. [when people of the world] ...more
Mar 21, 2011 Oliver rated it liked it
I think that Sachs approach is interesting and I will add my detailed notes at some point to this post.
Essentially, Sachs discusses the climate facing the modern world, what with climate change, population booms, lacking resources, politics and seeming impending disaster. Due to this, he offers his optimistic perspective on how the world, through an interactive, multilateral approach, can begin to resolve these problems. He also makes the case that international economic aid is an important par
Dec 27, 2011 Joey rated it really liked it
I don’t think there’s serious doubt that sustainable development is an element of the remedy for the ills that Sachs outlines in Common Wealth: environmental degradation, climate change, extreme poverty, disease, exponential population growth. What is startling is the extent to which the practices of the developed world’s population and businesses, and the policies of its governments, tend to ignore these ills.

One effective point of Common Wealth is how Sachs drew strong linkages between the sec
Nov 12, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been looking for a book that explained in detail all the issues of climate change, population growth, poverty and sustainability in the world. A friend recommended "Common Wealth" by the economist Jeffrey D. Sachs and it didn't disappoint.

Jeffrey Sachs has been an economic adviser all over the world to governments and organizations. His work advising the U.N. on the Millennium Development Goals will likely get him a Nobel Prize one day soon. His ability to break down complex issues into bi
Aug 27, 2010 Xing rated it really liked it
The key ideas are those which many of us have arrived at naturally and collectively- such as the consequences of population growth, over-consumption of resources, income disparities, as well as the numerous efforts people are making to tackle these issues. Sachs provides a broad, global perspective, allowing the non-economist to place underlying concepts (economic trends, political decision-making, population control) within a wider context, and elegantly knits together a wealth of essential fac ...more
May 16, 2008 Mark rated it liked it
Jeffrey Sachs is the literary answer to Al Gore's film 'The Inconvient Truth', but without the dry, witty humor (that Gore could have made great use of during is vying for the presidency). Nevertheless, Sachs' book is chock full of information, mostly about the consequences of disregarding global warming as not just a potential serious problem for some, but as a global problem for us all. It is dark and it is forboding, but I can't decide whether it is the subject-matter and my understanding of ...more
Jan 18, 2010 Greg rated it liked it
Not a bad book, although my main complaints are that it highly repetitive (one could play a drinking game with Green Revolution references) and a bit too self-referential at times. I like the fact that he calls for an active role of government in addressing climate change, investment in research and development, etc., but in other ways Sachs' view is painfully orthodox from an economics perspective. For example, he clearly subscribes to the notion of long-run convergence and equilibrium of incom ...more
Jun 14, 2008 Roger rated it really liked it
Jeff Sachs writes inspirationally, but he is too idealistic. Implementing his policies requires many givens, appealing to the best in politicians. However, a plan built purely on hope is either trying to pull an anime, saving the world with hotblooded manliness, or is doomed to failure. Politicians have their reasons for acting, and unless those reasons are rendered counterproductive or fulfilled, they will continue striding.

I think he suffers from giving too many presentations via Powerpoint to
Feb 16, 2009 Keith rated it it was amazing
This is the book that Jeffrey Sachs was meant to write. His previous book, The End of Poverty, has a catchier title and perhaps a more broadly appealing subject, but this book is far and away a better and more important read.

Sachs outlines three major challenges facing our world in the coming decades - environmental change, population growth, and extreme poverty, and gives a sort of state of the world in each of these three categories. For each topic, he discusses where we are now, the consequen
Gabriel Alan
Dec 12, 2010 Gabriel Alan rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
Jeffrey Sachs, former Harvard economist and current Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is the ideal person to author such a work — a comprehensive overview of, and action plan for the social and environmental crises facing our planet. Regrettably, this book is a missed opportunity except, perhaps, as a very basic (and somewhat uninspired) introduction to present day environmental science and development economics. Hints of what this book could have been are found in the sect ...more
Erika RS
May 13, 2013 Erika RS rated it liked it
This book describes why general prosperity is a good thing, tells how the changing global environmental and demographic situations change the traditional story with respect to prosperity, and presents ideas for how general global prosperity might be achieved.

Sachs argues that the 20th and 21st centuries will see the end of American and European economic dominance. This is largely due to the fact that the population is increasing much more quickly in the rest of the world than in the U.S. and Eur
Jan 10, 2016 Tinea rated it liked it
Recommends it for: billionaires looking for places to throw moneys
Recommended to Tinea by: fidget's econ professor
This book presents a fairly complete overview of mainstream international economic development theory and goals, and would serve as a useful introduction to the topic. Jeffrey Sachs is the darling economic advisor of many of the United Nations' development schemes, and is the driving figurehead behind the Millenium Development Goals. He's a liberal free-market economist at heart (as Naomi Klein so delightfully rips him apart for in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism) who had eno ...more
Oct 03, 2009 Mason rated it liked it
He covers a lot of ground, emphasizing the need to tackle diverse problems--health, environment, inequality, and more--all at the same time.

However, there's nothing hugely original here, and it's been covered elsewhere in more compelling ways. Also, Sachs takes on a professorial tone far too much of the time, telling the readers how things are, without much indication of how he arrived at these conclusions.

Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be D
Edwin B
Jan 21, 2009 Edwin B rated it it was amazing
For me this book is a primer on what's most important going on in the world today, a useful paradigm on sustainable development and the need for all nations and all peoples to take responsibility for the earth - because it's not yet too late and we can still reverse the tide of environmental collapse, if we act now. Global social justice is also very much in Sachs' picture here - taking developed nations to task for providing very reasonable aid to help peoples in impoverished areas of the world ...more
Jan 05, 2009 MCOH rated it really liked it
O.k, actually, I didn't finish this. I checked it out of the library (on interlibrary loan) a while ago, and it came due before I was done. I'm just marking it as read, because I'm getting annoyed looking at my long list of books that I'm "currently reading". I need a place to mark, "Started this book, may or may not ever finish. Now kindly move aside and stop taunting me for being such an irresponsible, flaky reader."

It was a pretty good book (the first half of it, anyway), with some really imp
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Is an American economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. One of the youngest economics professors in the history of Harvard University, Sachs became known for his role as an adviser to Eastern European and developing country governments in the implementation of so-called economic shock therapy during the transition from communism to a market system or during periods of ...more
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