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Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

   - China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?
   - Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?
   - What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More
philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.

Book Reviews

Why Nations Fail
Average rating
4.3 / 5
December 3rd, 2014
This book offers an interesting theory on why poor nations have a hard time getting out of their poverty. It's full of historical references so you learn a bit of that while reading to.
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1 review
April 8th, 2014
Made a really good case, was fun and excellent to read. The brief histories made it compelling.
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1 review
January 26th, 2014
Acemoglu and Robinson do a great job of taking aid and development economics and making it approachable to a wider audience. The do water down some and dramatize others of their points, but overall have a balanced style that makes the book easy to read but intellectually rewarding at the same time. Their take on development and what sets successful countries apart from the rest is very interesting and insightful. If you're interested in the world and how sociology, economics, politics, and power converge in the world around us, you should check it out.
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1 review
Good partial analysis
October 18th, 2013
Good analysis in my opinion, but missing some points concerning the reality of our world.
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1 review
Historical destiny vs man-made history
March 10th, 2013
This is a great book to read to get a more rounded understanding of why some nations fail and others succeed throughout the ages. The geo-economic perspective promulgated by Jared Diamond sets out the thesis of how geographical advantages and obstacles shape the paths of development in the earlier ages but this book is particularly pertinent to our day and age now that geography has become far less of a factor in human development. Singapore is still fortunately blessed with largely inclusive political and economic institutions and for that due credit should be given to the founding fathers, but as the book aptly points out, this state of affairs is neither preordained or permanent.
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1 review

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