Muhammad Yunus – Banker To The Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty (New York: PublicAffairs, 2007)
Yunus is a Bangladeshi economist who did much to popularize microlending—small loans to budding entrepreneurs in the developing world. He won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. This is his autobiography.
While his bottom-up approach to development is a massive improvement from the top-down model favored by economists such as Jeffrey Sachs and organizations like the World Bank, Yunus is not without his critics, and was touched by scandal in recent years. Now 80 years old, he is mostly retired.
Though not entirely objective, this is a good introduction to how a creative, entrepreneurial approach can have a large positive impact on philanthropy and economic development. There are lots of ways to cook an egg. Yunus’ recipe is one of many that are not perfect, but are still part of a healthy diet.
Further reforms must operate not just in finance or in this or that policy area, but also at the institutional level, such as property rights protections, and in culture, such as a general sense that openness, innovation, and commerce are good things, and corruption should be resisted, rather than tolerated.