Angelina Jolie and Jeffrey Sachs (c) Getty ImagesThe Make Poverty History / Live8 furore of 2005 (and MPH’s counterparts around the world, collectively called the Global Call to Action Against Poverty) featured plenty of rock stars, comedians, actors, campaigners, and even a few Starving Africans, arguing and lobbying for action on extreme poverty. But when it came to actual economists, one name kept coming up again and again: Jeffrey Sachs. You may have heard of him. You’ve probably seen a picture of him with at least one celebrity. You may have heard him called a hero, “probably the most important economist in the world”1, or equally decried as naive, an imperialist, or a champagne-quaffing lightweight. I haven’t a clue; I haven’t met him, but I’m going to see him at St. Paul’s cathedral on Thursday, so I’ll give you my impressions then. What’s certain is that, as the Director of the UN’s Millennium Development Project, whose Report provided the intellectual underpinnings to both the Africa Commission Report and the GCAP’s main demands, he’s the single most important brain behind the 2005 movement.

So when the time came to start looking in detail at the main proposals on Africa, his book The End of Poverty seemed like as good a place as any to start. The book was published in early 2005, as the GCAP campaigns swung into action, and in the UK and US it became a central part of the media onslaught (Just in case Sachs wasn’t indelibly linked to the MPH campaign in people’s heads, they let Bono write the foreword). It was well reviewed, although some objected to its biographical sections and others took issue with Sach’s actual prescriptions (William Easterley appears to be a bit of a thorn in Mr. Sachs’ side, a dispute I’ll look at in a couple of weeks. Or possibly months, the way my reading schedule is going).

The book’s eye-catching title is, surprisingly, not just exaggeration for effect. Sachs says, quite clearly and in the first chapter, that extreme poverty can be ended by 2025; the “End of Poverty” he describes means the fulfilment of this goal, and an additional improvement in the development chances of the moderately poor (as far as definitions go, he’s broadly comfortable with the $1 and $2 standards described – and critiqued – in Counting The Poor). Beyond that introduction, the book progresses in three sections: a further three chapters that lay out the basic principles of Sach’s economic ideas; six chapters of autobiography, detailing his work on the economies of Bolivia, Poland, Africa and elsewhere; and eight chapters of what could be called “The Plan,” with the basic details of how he sees the 2025 goal being attained. That gives us three neat sections in which to write about it. So tomorrow, part 1.

1The New York Times

*Sorry. Trying to lighten the tone.