Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How to Change the World

Further to my post about being a selfish son-of-a-bitch, the books I ordered arrived, and I've been getting quite an education. I ordered four books. The first, The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly, helps us understand what kind of aid doesn't work, and presumably, what kind does work.

Easterly's perspective is balanced by
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffrey Sachs. This book extols the power of aid, and is written by the architect of the UN's Millenial Plan to end poverty by 2025.

I knew these books were at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, and thus thought they both deserved my attention. Both are by well-respected experts/economists, experienced in aid and poverty issues.

Not wanting to get bogged down by too may graphs (which both books have), and also not wanting to get overwhelmed by the massive scope of problems that these two books are sure to address, I also ordered a couple of very practical books.

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism is by Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in "micro-finance." He has shown that the world's poorest people are outstanding credit risks, and that loans as small as $10-20 can break the cycle of poverty by allowing poor families to start their own businesses.

The one I'm reading now, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition by David Bornstein, is a collection of accounts of social innovators who through their persistence and dedication to an idea, have changed the world. I'm finding it a fascinating read. I love learning about things I know nothing about. So far, that's included rural electrification in Brazil, child protection in India, and the development of the EPA's "bubble" policies in the 1970's upon which concepts like carbon exchanges have been built. The first few chapters explore the qualities of the people who bring about these sort of social changes. I'll write more about that later.

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