28 March 2005

Maybe we can save the world

Via Yglasias I learn of Daniel Drezner's excellent post on eliminating the worst of world poverty.

Apparently a bloke named Jeffrey Sachs has sat down and asked what we can do for people around the world who are living on less than a dollar a day. That's the threshhold of "extreme poverty," which means going to bed hungry every night, not having a place to sleep that's warm and dry, doing without shoes, catching malaria because you can't afford a mosquio net, and so forth. There are a billion human beings living like that right now: roughly one out of every hundred people who have ever lived. Sachs looked at what kind of aid works, what kind doesn't, how much it really costs. He's assembled a set of programs that, taken together, ought to reach everyone under that dollar-a-day threshhold, do the stuff that most needs doing, and nudge them out of extreme poverty. The price tag: about $150 billion a year.

Okay, it's a lot of money, but it's not an inconceivably large amount of money. My totally uninformed guess would have been an order of magnitude more. Granted, Sachs could be just plain wrong: his plan is predicated on the lessons of past failed aid efforts, but that doesn't mean there aren't new mistakes out there to make. Still, is there any justification for not trying?

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