Getting Better

Why Global Development Is Succeeding — And How We Can Improve the World Even More
Published:   March 2011
ISBN: 0465020151 | 256 pages
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As the income gap between developed and developing nations grows, so grows the cacophony of voices claiming that the quest to find a simple recipe for economic growth has failed. Getting Better, in sharp contrast, reports the good news about global progress. Economist Charles Kenny argues against development naysayers by pointing to the evidence of widespread improvements in health, education, peace, liberty--and even happiness.

Kenny shows how the spread of cheap technologies, such as vaccines and bed nets, and ideas, such as political rights, has transformed the world. He also shows that by understanding this transformation, we can make the world an even better place to live.

That's not to say that life is grand for everyone, or that we don't have a long way to go. But improvements have spread far, and, according to Kenny, they can spread even further.

Reviews

"This book is an important and welcome counterweight to much of the doom and gloom that pervades popular and policy discussions about Africa. It makes important contributions in documenting the major advances in aspects of human development that have intrinsic value—health, knowledge and empowerment—that have been experienced by people in the poorest parts of the world, drawing attention to the role of ideas and innovation. Yet Charles Kenny does not shy away from the fact that, as underlined by the 2010 Human Development Report, not all good things go together. The extent of poverty and inequality, including but not only in terms of incomes but other dimensions of well being, remains a major concern. There are important implications for policy makers in developing countries, and the basic message of realistic optimism should inform all those interested in development assistance and ways to sustain progress in the future." — William Easterly, Professor of Economics at New York University and author of The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good and The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics

"Gloom and doom have long been the default view of global poverty. It would take a clear-eyed and courageous researcher to show that the orthodox viewpoint is wrong. Such a researcher has finally appeared in Charles Kenny, who shows convincingly that most trends in human well-being worldwide, and region by region, are happily, dramatically positive. Read this delightful book and you will never look at global economic development the same way again." — Jeni Klugman, Director and Lead Author, Human Development Report, United Nations Development Programme

"Charles Kenny is one of the best and deepest writers on economic growth and its relationship to quality of life in the modern world. This book represents the pinnacle of his thought." — Tyler Cowen, Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics, George Mason University

"This nuanced and brilliant book is a must-read for anybody who wants to understand the complexity of development. Kenny doesn't traffic in trite or facile diagnoses or solutions; instead, he compellingly lays out both the obstacles to success and the good reasons to be hopeful. I learned more from this book than from any other book I've ever read: it's chock-full of important facts, corralled masterfully. Enjoy, and be illuminated!" — Felix Salmon, finance blogger for Reuters

"Getting Better is a wonderful book: a great read, a compelling argument, and what will be a controversial bottom line – that growth is not after all necessary for poverty reduction. In a surprising riposte to GDP-focused economists and aid skeptics, Charles Kenny brings readers not just Malthus, Arthur Lewis, Sen and Sachs, but Kipling, Tolstoy, and the unfortunate Mungo Park. Here is a thoughtful and sweeping take on what we don't know about why countries grow and what we do know about how ideas and technology and yes aid are improving lives everywhere." — Nancy Birdsall, President of the Center for Global Development

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