SEATTLE – Bono calls the economist Jeffrey Sachs “the squeaky wheel that roars.” To me, Sachs is the Bono ofeconomics – a guy with impressive intelligence, passion, and powers of persuasionwho is devoting his gifts to speaking up for the poorest people on the planet.So it was no surprise to me that a journalist would find Sachs to be a compellingcentral character for a book – and a good way to draw readers into the potentiallydry subject of international development.
In The Idealist, Vanity Fair writer Nina Munk draws a nuanced portrait of Sachs andhis Millennium Villages Project (MVP) – a $120 million demonstration project intendedto show the world that it’s possible to lift African villages out of poverty througha massive infusion of targeted assistance. It would have been easy, and perhapsmore marketable, for Munk to draw a caricature, overly accentuating Sachs’snegative qualities at the expense of his great gifts. But she doesn’t. Munk spentsix years researching the book, getting to know Sachs well and living forextended periods in two of the 15 Millennium Villages. She clearly appreciatesthe importance and difficulty of what Sachs and his team are attempting to do.