A discussion with Jeffrey Sachs

The American economist gave a presentation at the University of British Columbia as part of the Liu Institute for Global Issues’ Lind Initiative.

By: /
November 18, 2015

On October 22, economist Jeffrey Sachs gave a passionate talk at the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues as part of its series on inequality.

Sachs, author of The End of Poverty, is the Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, and is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), having held the same position under Kofi Annan.

“It’s a new day for Canada, if I may say so,” Sachs told an audience of UBC students. “I always looked to Canada as the moral conscience of North America, and I’m hoping that in the new Canada that is starting with the new elections we can revive that tradition.”

“It’s a rather paradoxical time…in that my profession, economics, is supposed to be the profession of scarcity, but we actually don’t live in a time of scarcity, in the literal sense that economics once considered, and in fact…it is quite realistic to think about ending extreme poverty. This is not a day dream or fanciful or utopian, this is very practical and very close to within reach.”

In his lecture, Sachs discusses the inception and implementation of the MDGs and the new Sustainable Development Goals, and explains that the most important purpose of these goals is to draw attention to issues like inequality and poverty. He also discusses the success he’s had with global efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria.

“Don’t ever listen to what’s politically possible. Anyone who says that doesn’t know what they’re talking about, because the phrase is pretty meaningless. Because you don’t know until you find ways to move forward…I was told in the White House in 2001 [the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] would never happen, but two years later it did happen, so you don’t know.”

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The Politics of Inequality series is a partnership between OpenCanada and the Lind Initiative at the University of British Columbia.


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