In The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman explores the world that has been "flattened" by globalization. He explains how we got here and what it means for nations, corporations, and individuals. Friedman argues that in the past, the global economy was run by nations. Then, it was run by large corporations. But thanks to the power of the global flatteners (internet, personal computers, fiber optic cables, etc.) the future of the global economy will be shaped by individuals. Today, anyone with a personal computer and an internet connection can start a business and compete globally.
I think I liked this book so much because I have been wrestling with ideas about global poverty, the Gospel's challenge to care for the poor and disenfranchised, and the reality of what I can do as a middle-class American Christian. I know I can't solve the problem myself, but I can at least be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
I think that micro-finance is the future of the western church's involvement in developing nations. America has grown great by our entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of exploiting developing nations so that we can live more comfortably, we need to encourage developing nations to industrialize and lift themselves out of poverty. A small loan of a couple of hundred dollars can be all it takes to help an entrepreneur in a developing nation start his or her own business. In this way, we are not handing out relief aid and teaching people to be dependant upon the provision of others, we are offering them a fair and reasonable way for them to lift themselves out of poverty.
I also highly recommend Erik Reinert's book, How Rich Countries Got Rich . . . And Why Poor Countries Stay Poor for an excellent discussion of how the developed world perpetuates the poverty of developing nations, and how we can change to better help them. If you want to know more about micro-finance and micro-enterprise, visit http://www.kiva.org/.