The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It

In the universally acclaimed and award-winning The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier reveals that fifty failed states--home to the poorest one billion people on Earth--pose the central challenge of the developing world in the twenty-first century. The book shines much-needed light on this group of small nations, largely unnoticed by the industrialized West, that are dropping further and further behind the majority of the world's people, often falling into an absolute decline in living standards. A struggle rages within each of these nations between reformers and corrupt leaders--and the corrupt are winning. Collier analyzes the causes of failure, pointing to a set of traps that ensnare these countries, including civil war, a dependence on the extraction and export of natural resources, and bad governance. Standard solutions do not work, he writes; aid is often ineffective, and globalization can actually make matters worse, driving development to more stable nations. What the bottom billion need, Collier argues, is a bold new plan supported by the Group of Eight industrialized nations. If failed states are ever to be helped, the G8 will have to adopt preferential trade policies, new laws against corruption, new international charters, and even conduct carefully calibrated military interventions. Collier has spent a lifetime working to end global poverty. In The Bottom Billion, he offers real hope for solving one of the great humanitarian crises facing the world today.

"Set to become a classic. Crammed with statistical nuggets and common sense, his book should be compulsory reading."
--The Economist

"If Sachs seems too saintly and Easterly too cynical, then Collier is the authentic old Africa hand: he knows the terrain and has a keen ear.... If you've ever found yourself on one side or the other of those arguments--and who hasn't?--then you simply must read this book."
--Niall Ferguson, The New York Times Book Review

"Rich in both analysis and recommendations.... Read this book. You will learn much you do not know. It will also change the way you look at the tragedy of persistent poverty in a world of plenty."
--Financial Times

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By Kerry (Chicago, IL) · ★★★☆☆ · November 17, 2009
I read this for a book club. I will share the poem I wrote about the book:

Trapped at the bottom of the economic ladder
Per capita income, GDP, what does it matter?

A failing state after four years or more of stagnation,
Often includes bad governance, conflict & hyperinflation,
Natural resource sh... ...more
By Bojan (Greencastle, IN) · ★★★★★ · April 07, 2011
This is one the best policy books that I have read and an example of what a good policy book should be all about. It deals with the subject that is often in public spotlight and yet it seems as intractable today as it was decades ago. This sad state of affairs may in at least part be attributed t... ...more
By Ericka (Portland, OR) · ★☆☆☆☆ · January 18, 2009
Poor scholarship
Lacks critique of objections to his proposed solutions
Lacks evidence--debunks failed policies based on his word with no supporting evidence
Fails to address health and education issues
Obvious bias towards capitalism and free market economies being the solution to world problems
Lack... ...more
By Jennifer (Walpole, NH) · ★★★★☆ · December 10, 2010
Really fascinating book about why countries like Haiti, Somalia, Chad and the Central Asian "Stans" have failed to develop towards middle income status, whereas the rest of what we call the "developing world" has made real progress. Collier is better on the problems, I think, than on the solution... ...more
By Jan (Oslo, 12, Norway) · ★★★★★ · August 13, 2012
-If you consider to read just one book about poverty and aid this one is well written, 190 pages, inexpensive, gives insights other books not necessarily give you - a good choice. Be warned that you might want to read more on the topic after finishing this book.

-This book analyzes scientifically... ...more
By Frank (The United States) · ★★★★★ · May 21, 2010
I thought this book might be an effective counterpoint to William Easterly's "The Elusive Quest for Growth," but instead of focusing on foreign aid, Collier focuses on the internal problems in poor countries that inhibit economic growth, and thus he largely complements rather than contradicts Eas... ...more
By Jason (Saint Louis, MO) · ★★★☆☆ · December 28, 2008
Collier loves his research. He also loves the research of people who have studied under him. Finally, he loves the research of people he works with.

While I have no doubt that his research has produced some fruitful insights into poverty, I don't think his book is the amazing must-read developmen... ...more
By Justin (Brisbane, Qld, Australia) · ★★★★★ · December 10, 2011
I have just finished reading Paul Colliers book the Bottom Billion. ie=UTF8&qid=1323505577&sr=8-2 Now at this point this review could easily turn into a sales pitch about how good the kindle app on my android tablet is and how it brings books that... ...more
By Tim (Den Haag, 11, Netherlands) · ★★★★☆ · January 13, 2014
Collier's economics background in conjunction with his work with the World Bank makes him a prominent figure in the international development field. "The Bottom Billion" address the inherent 'traps' associated with development in an approachable and readable format suitable for readers of all dem... ...more
By Mark (Fort Huachuca, AZ) · ★★★★★ · March 23, 2015
A must read for anyone working in public policy or an NGO that has anything to do with aid efforts. Too many great quotes from him but my favorite is his criticism of the left towards the end of the book:

“The countries of the bottom billion are not there to pioneer experiments in socialism; they... ...more