The Great Escape Analysis

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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…show more content…
The biggest accomplishment of Angus Deaton’s “Great Escape” is to bring perspective to all this wistfulness. By the most meaningful measures — how long we live, how healthy and happy we are, how much we know — life has never been better. Just as important, it is continuing to…show more content…
Humanity has spent most of its history not making progress, with neither life spans nor incomes rising. “For thousands of years,” Deaton writes, “those who were lucky enough to escape death in childhood faced years of grinding poverty.” “The Great Escape” of Deaton’s title refers to the process that began during the Enlightenment and made progress the norm. Scientists, doctors, businessmen and government officials began to seek truth, rather than obediently accept dogma, and they began to experiment. In Immanuel Kant’s definition of the Enlightenment: “Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own understanding!” The germ theory of disease, public sanitation, the Industrial Revolution and modern democracy soon followed. Deaton’s writing is unfailingly accessible to the lay reader. At times, he repeats himself (he is definitely not a fan of foreign aid) or delves into technical subjects that will not interest everyone, like the calculation of exchange rates. But readers looking to learn some economics without picking up a textbook may enjoy these tangents. All in all, “The Great Escape” joins “Getting Better” — a 2011 book by Charles Kenny that concentrated on poor countries (and was more positive about foreign aid) — as one of the most succinct guides to conditions in today’s
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