Global poverty: Beyond "mainstream economics"

ON SEPTEMBER 25th, a special session of the United Nations will meet to look at the so-called “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs). These are a set of proposed global targets designed to help the world’s poorest (such as, for example “eradicate extreme poverty by 2030″). They would supercede, from 2015, the “millennium development goals” which expire then.This week’s Free exchange column is a guest article by Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Colombia University, looking at the context and general aim of the SDGs (rather than a detailed look at individual targets). Professor Sachs sets debate about the SDGs in the context of the post-crash, post-Washington-consensus reassessment of growth.“Standard economic policies,” he writes, “aim for growth, full stop. Sustainable development aims for growth that is broadly shared across the income scale and that is also environmentally sound.” He contrasts “mainstream economics [with] the policies that are needed to deliver sustainable development” and argues that the former is ill suited to dealing with the “big problems ahead—climate change, food scarcity, demographic shifts and poorly trained young people.” What is needed is something a bit more radical:All of these SDGs would require an overhaul of technology systems, whether for health, energy, transport, food supplies or safer cities. Target-driven …

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