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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
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The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  6,940 ratings  ·  415 reviews
In the universally acclaimed and award-winning The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier reveals that fifty failed states--home to the poorest one billion people on Earth--pose the central challenge of the developing world in the twenty-first century. The book shines much-needed light on this group of small nations, largely unnoticed by the industrialized West, that are dropping fu ...more
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published June 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published April 27th 2007)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  6,940 ratings  ·  415 reviews

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Jan 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: px

On July 9th 2011, the people of South Sudan took to the streets jubilant, celebrating their country’s independence. Alas! The euphoria was short-lived as the newly independent, strictly landlocked country fell into the cyclic trap of civil war; ethnic annihilation and mass starvation taking the centerstage. The recent signed peace deal between President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Riek Machar, dashed all hope of tranquility as the ceasefire deal was broken through a couple of violent attacks
This is an incredibly frustrating book. Written by one of the world's most influential and respected development economists, Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion has become a sort of how-to guide, the Book for much of the ever-divided development community. His ideas are easy to understand (civil war = bad, natural resources trap = bad, bad governance = bad for investors, landlocked countries are disadvantaged) and present no challenge to the structure of the world economy that punishes the poorest ...more
Nov 17, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this for a book club. I will share the poem I wrote about the book:

Trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder
Per capita income, GDP, what does it matter?

A failing state after four years or more of stagnation,
Often includes bad governance, conflict & hyperinflation,
Natural resource shocks and bad neighbors can lead to marginalization
There is a reason tourists don't choose the Central African Republic as a destination.

Can something be done to prevent a downward trend?
Can aid and capacity
Jan 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
Poor scholarship
Lacks critique of objections to his proposed solutions
Lacks evidence--debunks failed policies based on his word with no supporting evidence
Fails to address health and education issues
Obvious bias towards capitalism and free market economies being the solution to world problems
Lacks citations of any data rather uses a "based on previous research" approach which nullifies any empirical claims of this particular book
Nowadays, more than 80% of the world population is living in countries that experience economic growth. However, 20% or nearly 1 billion people still live in countries with none or very little growth, are experiencing civil war, plagues and other mishaps. These countries, located mainly in Africa, will stay poor if we don't do anything, allowing them to diverge from an increasing sophisticated world economy and be forgotten, with disastrous results.

Paul Collier, professor of economics and direct
Frank Stein
May 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book might be an effective counterpoint to William Easterly's "The Elusive Quest for Growth," but instead of focusing on foreign aid, Collier focuses on the internal problems in poor countries that inhibit economic growth, and thus he largely complements rather than contradicts Easterly's analysis. This work is based on an entire career of rigorous scientific research, and Collier puts it to good use in a book that is both dense and fast-paced.

Collier has identified four main "tra
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating book about why countries like Haiti, Somalia, Chad and the Central Asian "Stans" have failed to develop towards middle income status, whereas the rest of what we call the "developing world" has made real progress. Collier is better on the problems, I think, than on the solutions, but not bad on either. This is the best, clearest explanation I've ever read about why oil and mineral wealth can be so detrimental to a country's growth. (Because it crowds out all other export activ ...more
Aug 06, 2019 added it
Shelves: economics
This is a stupid book. I don't use that term lightly.

Some development economists simply seem misguided. Paul Collier, au contraire, seems like a bad actor. While he diagnoses several "poverty traps" correctly -- even if they are rather obvious -- he then goes onto recommend the most milquetoast non-solutions possible. Oh, except for military interventions, which are apparently OK (he points out how everyone says they're not, but, like, reasons and stuff) because if there's one thing we've learne
Oct 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
I was disheartened to learn this book is highly regarded and then sickened to discover it was not published 10 years ago. Collier's ideas are hardly contributive to any insightful analysis of the problem of "development", and even his myopic vision is ill-served by his bland and threadbare solutions.

How could a man as who once served as director of research for the World Bank be so appallingly estranged from the complex realities of Africa? Oh wait, never mind...

I feel oddly embarrassed that thi
Bojan Tunguz
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one the best policy books that I have read and an example of what a good policy book should be all about. It deals with the subject that is often in public spotlight and yet it seems as intractable today as it was decades ago. This sad state of affairs may in at least part be attributed to some of the misunderstanding of what global poverty is all about, who is most affected by it, and what sort of traps those most affected find themselves incapable of escaping. As this book clearly argu ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short and to the point. The support to the poorest countries can't continue to be reactive and focus on the negatives already occurring in these countries. Instead the focus should be on enabling growth within, and that requires a change in their culture, and ours. External policies can help to enable this growth if planned smart. You have to give the people hope, not a band aid for an existing single issue.
The focus of the book is about the "traps" these countries are in and cannot get out of,
Jul 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is an important book for anyone interested priorities of mainstream development economists. Philosophically, I disagree with the prescriptive parts, which focus (unsurprisingly) on GDP growth and stability, but I found the diagnosis/analysis poverty and instability useful. And the prose is good for an economist
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-politics
I bought this book because I wanted to think about how to effectively help the poorest people in the world, but instead I ended up thinking about a slander against the Boston Police Department (BPD), an organization I usually do not find myself leaping to the defense of.

On (Kindle) page 22, the author states that “... apparently some of the guns used by the IRA came from the Boston police department (though the attacks of September 11, 2001, brought a stop to that one ...)”. Of course, there wer
May 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think Collier's major challenge here is to change the mindset of many of the investors and/or aid organizations that think the best approach to developing nations is to simply throw large sums of money at them, hoping for the best. What he suggests, with ample research to support his thesis, is that the money often times is mismanaged or embezzled by the corrupt government. A perfect example of this would be Chad; several million dollars in aid were given to Chad specifically for health care. ...more
Sep 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Collier loves his research. He also loves the research of people who have studied under him. Finally, he loves the research of people he works with.

While I have no doubt that his research has produced some fruitful insights into poverty, I don't think his book is the amazing must-read development book of the year - or even a book really worth reading. Here's the nutshell version, that will save you some money:

The bottom billion people out there (part of a number of countries Collier won't name
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Paul Collier is a professor of economics and director of the center of study of African Economies of Oxford University. He was formerly the director of Development research at the World Bank and the advisor to the British government commission in Africa. He is so enthusiastic about the poverty and its solution issue to the extent that he switched his honeymoon to a trip with a scholar to Ethiopia for research 
When 1/6 of the earth’s people are living in misery and discontent below the poverty l
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
-If you consider to read just one book about poverty and aid this one is well written, 190 pages, inexpensive, gives insights other books not necessarily give you - a good choice. Be warned that you might want to read more on the topic after finishing this book.

-This book analyzes scientifically why the bottom billion countries remain the poorest while countries as China and India experiences rapid growth, to what extent anything can be done about their situation and to what extent existing poli
Feb 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
I read this for one of my classes and we spent the whole time critiquing Collier’s rhetoric. He fails to provide sources and evidence (or ANY citations) for many of the claims he makes in this work, and fails to even address any opposing views to what he proposes as solutions (none of which are very good). He has a very clear bias towards free market capitalism in being a solution to the world’s problems without addressing our increasingly interdependent and globalizing world as a contributor to ...more
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Extremely dense and Collier missed the golden opportunity to summarize his findings. He is all over the map. He lays out problems but couches the solutions, if you can find them, in "it may work but might not because they are different markets." He may be a great economist but he is a poor writer. ...more
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Best book of the "how do we fix the world" genre... Terrific book on its own rights, falls short on the legitimacy of some of its supporting evidence... at this point, that criticism isn't relevant but will be once political scientists figure out how to do their job... ...more
Oct 01, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
This book was such a disappointment; I expected an intelligent analysis, and some thoughtful solutions. What I got was a lot of repetition from an author who assumed his audience was going to forget every statement he made!
Nov 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Best of the 'how to save the poor' genre so far. ...more
May 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
A stunning exercise in stating the obvious.
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Paddy by: TED
Shelves: economics, world
Clear, specific, and based on tons of empirical data - everything that the development discourse is missing. Gives a very coherent plan for making the world's poorest less poor. ...more
Sep 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting commentary on economic policy. The writing was a little dry at times.
Nov 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There are many wonderful things about Powell's Bookstore in Portland, but the best thing that I personally found there this summer was this book. It's one of those rare books that has dramatically changed my thinking in some fundamental ways. If you have any interest in what to do about the poorest countries on the planet, this is the best thing on the subject that I've ever read. And all contained in a slim package of less than 200 pages.

As Collier says in the opening sentence of his book, "the
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Poverty has continued to be the world’s most unsolvable problem. To this date, humans have never lived in a world that is food, shelter, education and health secure. Some people believe that this problem will never be eradicated but others like global economist Paul Collier believe that although a very difficult task, those who are living in poverty stricken nations have the ability to escape these living conditions. Paul Collier argues that poverty is not unattainable in his book “The Bottom Bi ...more
Igor Veloso
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Economists, the politically engaged
Electorates get what they deserve. Popular thinking on developments is fogged by lazy images and controversies: “Globalization will fix it” versus “They need more protection”, “They need more money” versus “Aid feeds corruption.” “Go back to empire” versus “Respect their sovereignty,” “Support their armed struggles” versus “Prop up our allies.” These polarizations are untenable, and I hope that you have picked up some sense of how quantitative research on these issues challenges them.

The reason
Ryan Starr
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book does a good job explaining that while the wealth per capita of the mass majority of the world has improved greatly over the last 60 years, the bottom billion's wealth per capita has not improved at all. The author names four 'traps' (conflict, natural resource, landlocked, and bad governance) as to why this is the case. He then gives four potential solutions (aid, military intervention, laws and charters, and trade policy). Overall, this was an enlightening book that greatly increased ...more
Matthew Geleta
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion is a well-balanced and thoughtful analysis of many aspects of international development. It's a worthwhile read as an introduction to development economics at a macro-scale and at the level of the poorest nations.

Collier points out a number of key economic misconceptions that currently stifle NGOs, governments, and charities. These include misaligned incentive structures, misunderstanding of trade policies and their economic consequences, misunderstanding of the
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Paul Collier, CBE is a Professor of Economics, Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Antony's College. He is the author of The Plundered Planet; Wars, Guns, and Votes; and The Bottom Billion, winner of Estoril Distinguished Book Prize, the Arthur Ross Book Award, and the Lionel Gelber Prize.


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