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The world is a better place than it used to be. People are healthier, wealthier, and live longer. Yet the escapes from destitution by so many has left gaping inequalities between people and nations. In The Great Escape, Angus Deaton--one of the foremost experts on economic development and on poverty--tells the remarkable story of how, beginning 250 years ago, some parts of the world experienced sustained progress, opening up gaps and setting the stage for today's disproportionately unequal world. Deaton takes an in-depth look at the historical and ongoing patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and addresses what needs to be done to help those left behind. Deaton describes vast innovations and wrenching setbacks: the successes of antibiotics, pest control, vaccinations, and clean water on the one hand, and disastrous famines and the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the other. He examines the United States, a nation that has prospered but is today experiencing slower growth and increasing inequality. He also considers how economic growth in India and China has improved the lives of more than a billion people. Deaton argues that international aid has been ineffective and even harmful. He suggests alternative efforts--including reforming incentives to drug companies and lifting trade restrictions--that will allow the developing world to bring about its own Great Escape. Demonstrating how changes in health and living standards have transformed our lives, The Great Escape is a powerful guide to addressing the well-being of all nations.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 37 commentaires
61 internautes sur 66 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Essentially a survey course 28 octobre 2013
Par MT57 - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I was underwhelmed. Professor Deaton is highly regarded in his field of development economics, and there is one chapter, the penultimate, that focuses on that sector and it was hard-hitting, pithy, and insightful. Professor Deaton is a proponent of the theme that external aid does not make much difference in the least developed countries, due in large measure to corruption within the recipient nation. He lays out his case forcefully. For those who have encountered the philosophical, non-empirical argument of Peter Singer in favor of such aid, this chapter is a very effective rejoinder.

But otherwise, the book is basically a survey course -- at a 50,000 foot, totally macro level -- of the developments, mostly positive, in material wellbeing and health over the last couple of centuries -- the "Great Escape " of the title -- with some very high-level consideration of the reasons why they have not been uniform and the implications of the lack of uniformity. Pretty much everything is studied at the level of comparing statistics collected at the national level, which I find to be maddeningly frustrating as there are so many differences one can find between any pair of nations. And then one gets to the chapter on cross-border aid, and the author completely switches his vantage point and says that you can't limit your scrutiny of cross-border aid to the nation-to-nation level, you have to look at what is going on inside the recipient nation. I agree, but by the same token doesn't that perspective conflict undermine the nation-to nation comparisons that make up the prior chapters?

There are definitely insights of value -- for instance, that improvements in health and income are not as closely correlated as one might expect, and that economic inequality can be a spur as much as a constraint -- but I felt an inordinate amount of pages was devoted to setting up every point, as if the reader were an undergraduate student with no prior exposure to any of the issues. For a specific example, there is a chapter on "Material Wellbeing in the United States" of 50 pages length, but it largely rehashes themes and materials that you can find in the New York Times and other sources on the web. The work of Piketty and Saez is laid out for instance (as the NYT does every year when they update their work) and a few of the limitations in their data collection that skew the analysis to overstate inequality are noted (as Cato and others do every year in response) and then the author moves on. If you are not familiar with that work at all, I guess this is an introduction - just as you would get in a survey course - but it is not particularly insightful relative to other work already published much of which is available for free on the web.

I found the title partially misleading. There was very little about the "origins" of inequality in here, unless you count the chapter on globalization. And, to reiterate my theme, however strong or weak that link may be, did you not already know that globalization has been linked to increases in economic inequality before you read this book? Again, I felt I was getting a survey course level of presentation.

There is a secondary theme that runs through this book that I would have liked to have seen played up more, which is that, repeatedly in making his points, Professor Deaton shows that an economic hypothesis is based on a skewed collection of data, on incomplete data, or ignores conflicting data and does not hold up under moderate scrutiny from an unbiased analyst. I personally would have found it much more compelling a read had this point been played up more explicitly, although it probably would not have endeared him to his colleagues in the economics profession. I wondered whether the professor was being cunning and embedding the criticisms in a book that, on its face, appears to be more aligned with the point of view of the academy and ngo community that might be most inclined to pick it up. Although a book called "The Great Hoax; How Economists Obscure Reality to Convince You They Have Magic Powers" might sell more copies, albeit through different channels.

Other reviewers have noted that the book is quite readable and indeed it is, although I suggest the readability is in part a bug and not a feature, because so much time is devoted to setting up points. That is what makes it readable, I think, but also, to me, slowed it down and made it less efficient than I would have liked.

Although one might think that a 3-star review conflicts with the other, 5-star reviews, I think if you read the higher-starred reviews and this review, you will see that we are basically saying the same thing about the book, as a descriptive matter; our differences lie in how much value we assign to its level of generality. I hope this added point of view will be "helpful" to you as you decide whether to acquire the book.
23 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A once-in-a-decade book about economic and social development 16 octobre 2013
Par Guy P. Pfeffermann - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This is an important book by one of the foremost development economists in the world. It is highly readable, indeed written in an entertaining manner. Deaton paints on a vast canvas in time and space, embracing both developed and developing worlds. His theme is how in the course of history, and especially during the past three decades, hundreds of millions of people managed to escape abject poverty. He brings new insights into the sequencing and the many interwoven and often counter-intuitive linkages between growth and quality of life, especially health and longevity. His story begins when we were all hunters/gatherers and ends in 2013 in the unresolved aftermath of the financial crisis.

One of Deaton's main themes is that economic growth does not necessarily produce improved quality of life, especially when income is distributed very unequally - as is the case in today's United States. So for example, in spite of lower economic growth in France than in the United States, because of a less unequal distribution of income, "all but the top 1 percent of the French population did better than all but the top 1 percent of the American population". (p. 260)

In discussing the relationships between rich and poor countries, I very much like Deaton's implicit framework, which distinguishes "us" (the people of the North), "we" (the Northern governments), aid recipients ("their governments"), and "they" (the people of the South). This helps to cut through a lot of semantic and conceptual confusion, especially when discussing "development assistance".

The book concludes with a chapter about how to help those left behind the "Great Escape" from poverty. While I tend to agree with his main thrust: that foreign aid works best where it is least needed, i.e., where governance is reasonably good, and works worst in poorly-governed countries where the people are most miserable. But from all I have seen, the evidence on aid effectiveness is inconclusive, largely, as Deaton notes, because the data are so bad. Deaton is very critical of aid, but illustrates his argument with selected examples, when one can almost always find counter-examples. However, one can only agree with his observation that increased flows of money don't help - quite the opposite - when recipient countries lack basic capacities and/or are poorly governed.

Although he doesn't say it quite this way, Deaton implies throughout much of the book that while is quite easy for development experts to come up with lists of conditions that are necessary for successful development - including for example respect for the Rule of Law and sound macroeconomic policies - nobody has yet come up with a list of sufficient conditions.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Inequality, Infant Mortality, and Foreign Aid 17 décembre 2013
Par Mal Warwick - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Has the human race made progress since the days when all our lives were nasty, brutish, and short?

Some might think this question patently silly, since it would appear to answer itself. But Angus Deaton finds in it a point of entry into his inquiry on “health, wealth, and the origins of inequality,” the subtitle of his ambitious new book. He is in no doubt that humanity has progressed, not steadily but by fits and starts — and continues to do so to this day. “Today,” he writes, “children in sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to survive to age 5 than were English children born in 1918 . . . [and] India today has higher life expectancy than Scotland in 1945.”

In The Great Escape, Deaton, a veteran professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton, explores inequality — between classes and between countries — with a detailed statistical analysis of trends in infant mortality, life expectancy, and income levels over the past 250 years. He concludes that the large-scale inequality that plagues policymakers and reformers alike in the present day is the result of the progress humanity has made since The Great Divergence (between “the West and the rest”) since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. “Economic growth,” Deaton asserts, “has been the engine of international income inequality.”

No argument there: Deaton is far from alone in this belief. Other scholars have written extensively about this topic in recent years. A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, by Gregory Clark, is just one example.

Late in the 18th Century, the countries of Northern Europe and North America on the one hand and those of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America on the other hand were not that far apart as measured by the available indicators of health and income. Deaton cites “one careful study [that] estimates that the average income of all the inhabitants of the world increased between seven and eight times from 1820 to 1992.” However, that average obscures a harsh reality. The ever-quickening rate of change in “the West” since 1760 or so has widened the gap between (and within) countries to an extreme degree. Deaton terms the freedom from destitution and early death that so many of us now enjoy “The Great Escape,” taking his title from the 1963 film of that name about a massive escape of prisoners from a German P.O.W. camp in World War II.

Only now is the gap closing between the rich nations and China and India (by far the world’s two biggest countries, with nearly 40 percent of the planet’s population and half the world’s poor). Deaton doesn’t consider a bright future for all a certainty, not by any means, in view of global climate change and the ever-present threat of killer pandemics. But, assuming the species continues to thrive, there is sufficient data available now to have some confidence that the gross inequality now existing among nations will not persist forever. After all, five sub-Saharan African countries are now growing their economies faster than China’s.

However, that misleading factoid ignores the outsize role that China has played in “the Great Escape” globally. Deaton notes, as have other observers, that “the number [of] people in the world living on less than a (2005) dollar a day fell from about 1.5 billion in 1981 to 805 million in 2008 . . . [This] decline in numbers is driven almost entirely by the Chinese growth miracle; if China is excluded, 785 million people lived on less than a dollar a day in 1981 compared with 708 million in 2008.” (This reality is one of the principal reasons why Paul Polak and I insist in The Business Solution to Poverty that traditional methods to end poverty have largely failed. After all, China’s methods were hardly traditional!)

In the course of exploring the historical record of growing inequality on the world stage, Deaton delves deeply into the role of foreign aid (officially, Overseas Development Assistance, or ODA) and finds it comes up short. ”You cannot develop other countries from the outside with a shopping list for Home Depot, no matter how much you spend,” he writes. With the exception of outside interventions in public health programs — including such breakthroughs as the eradication of smallpox and the near-success with polio — Deaton finds that foreign aid has done more harm than good. He argues that where the conditions for development are present, outside resources are unnecessary. Where they’re absent, ODA entrenches local elites, distorts the local economy, and discourages local initiative. The author insists that “the record of aid shows no evidence of any overall beneficial effect.”

But that’s only part of the story.

In 2012, ODA totaled about $136 billion. Throw in another $30 billion or so from NGOs, and total outside assistance comes to under $200 billion annually. However, net resource transfers from developing countries to rich countries are well in excess of $500 billion annually. (Transfers reached a peak of $881 billion in 2007, fell with the Great Recession, but are rising again.) Quite apart from the fact that an estimated 70 percent of “foreign aid” is actually spent on products and services from donor nations, ODA merely puts a dent in the huge disadvantage that poor countries suffer as a result of lopsided trade policies and prevailing political and commercial imbalances. In any case, just one factor in those resource flows — remittances from overseas residents of poor countries to their families back home — are twice as large as ODA.

The Great Escape is a worthy effort from a senior scholar whose wide-ranging studies have led him to big-picture conclusions. Policymakers and practitioners should be listening carefully.
8 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Healthier Wealthier and More Unequal 22 décembre 2013
Par Shalom Freedman - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This book is about the overall development of humanity in regard to Health and Wealth. The major thesis is that Mankind has made considerable progess and this especially so in the past two- hundred and fifty years. Initially this led to great development in Western Europe and North America bringing about 'The Great Divergence' between the West and the rest. In recent decades a good share of the world, most notably China and India have made great progress in raising both Health standards and Wealth. Moreover Health and Wealth are in most cases related, and those societies richer in economic resources are also generally richer in the health of their populations. However Progess and Increase in Health and especially in Wealth often lead to greater Inequality both within and between societies.And in the concluding part of this book , and perhaps its most controversial part Deaton provides a certain strategy for reducing Inequality. He argues that it is not lack of Money which is most responsible for poor development in societies. Rather it is poor Governance. And his argument is that pouring money into the hands of corrupt leaders enables them to escape confronting the ills of their societies and the demands of their people. His idea is that true progress can be made only when there is a proper relationship between a nation's leaders and its people, one in which there is a kind of contract, mutual demands and obligations and checks on fulfilling these.
Deaton notes the delterious effects of Inequality on the general well- being of the Society and is especially worried about the growing gaps in Income in the United States. He points out having great wealth can lead to having no real interest in providing those broad communal services for the great majority of the people which the very wealthy can attain privately.
This book makes a strong argument against those who believe that Humanity has made no Progress in its overall historical development. It shows how in two of the fundamental elements in human well- being Humanity has progressed considerably, even at an accelerated rate in the past century. It does not offer a panacea to the Inequality problem but offers important ideas on how this should be addressed, now and in the future.
10 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Analysis of relationship between economic growth and improvement in health through time and spillovers of the interplay 20 novembre 2013
Par A. Menon - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
The Great Escape is an overview of the changing nature of life expectancy and income through time. These are big subjects but the author focuses on the interplay between health and wealth as well as the spillovers of the drivers of knowledge and how they spillover into inequality. The book tackles many things but really focuses on the way that life expectancy has changed and how it is currently changing, how income affects life expectancy and how income has changed and finally how to improve the base conditions for economic growth where there remains poverty.

The book is split into three major sections - Life and Death, Money, and Help. Life and death goes through the malthusian world humanity lived in for most of its history and then discusses how major breakthroughs changed life expectency through medical knowledge. Understanding of germ theory was essential in improving sanitation and decreasing child mortality. Initially the author discusses how essentially the big step in extending life expectency was not by changing conditional life expectency at age 10 but by decreasing infant mortality. The author then discusses when that benefit accrued, improving life expectency moved from infectious disease to solving chronic illness, a much slower space of incremental progress. The ideas in this chapter are pretty straightforward and understanding how the birth death dynamical process affects distribution of age and mean and median ages is well articulated. At the same time the underlying ideas are not particularly complicated and many readers will understand the lumpy benefit to curing childhood disease on expected life versus coming up with hip replacements. The author charts life expectency in time and how there is an income component which places one on the life expectency curve; one sees that time and the knowledge that is generated in time that moves us further along the understanding disease space, is the most powerful driver of extending life rather than income.

The author then discusses economic growth and divergence in the world. It starts out with the historical account and discusses the great divergence. It discusses income inequality, how it has evolved over time and where we are today. It is a descriptive account rather than prescriptive. It discusses concepts like the Gini coefficient and the process of economic growth. It also discusses qualitative aspects of life though it is noted that such a concept is hard to measure. Measure's life life satisfaction are discussed and how satisfaction and income though often claimed to be separate have many other data points which show that increased income does strictly improve one's self reflection. The author discusses how it is difficult to translate GDP/capita across countries given the non-tradeable nature of the economy and how purchasing power is not an easy concept to quantify robustly. The author also discusses global growth and India and China and how their growth has lifted so many from poverty but if one averages across countries without focusing on population average poor growth rates dont necessarily lead to higher growth. The chapter gives a good overview of globla growth and inequality, how it has changed and what is happening to these variables in a local as well as global setting. In particular the author describes how locally inequality has been growing but there is data that also shows it is reducing globally, these are potentially spillovers from labour becoming more tradeable with increasing returns going to capital.

Finally the author discusses aid and its costs and benefits. The author is a skeptic and largely argues that institutions are critical for growth and hence aid, dispersed through official channels, empowers regimes with poor institutions and hence perpetuates problems. This argument is very much in line with the writings of William Easterly "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics". The author argues against the view of jeffrey Sachs and believes that money is ineffective in the wrong institutional setting. The logic is powerful but is also disheartening and I'm sure many readers will remain on the fence on this issue.

The Great Escape covers some relatively large topics. I think it is informative for people who are unfamiliar with the subject matter. The writing is clear and certain dynamical processes in economics are made concrete through the writing in particular how information improves the life expecency/income curve. The organization i dont think is particularly great and there is a lot of coverage of subject but not a particularly well defined thesis. Things like the impact of changing youth mortality and its marginal impact on life expectency vs solutions to chronic diseases is fairly obvious though and much time is spent on concepts which are very easy to absorb. All in all i thought the book was a good read but the material can be found elsewhere and is nothing particularly revolutionary.
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