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Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty | [Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson]

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

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?
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Publisher's Summary

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 15 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.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2012 Daron Acemoglu (P)2012 Random House

What the Critics Say

"Why Nations Fail is a truly awesome book. Acemoglu and Robinson tackle one of the most important problems in the social sciences - a question that has bedeviled leading thinkers for centuries - and offer an answer that is brilliant in its simplicity and power. A wonderfully readable mix of history, political science, and economics, this book will change the way we think about economic development. Why Nations Fail is a must-read book." (Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics)

"You will have three reasons to love this book: It’s about national income differences within the modern world, perhaps the biggest problem facing the world today. It’s peppered with fascinating stories that will make you a spellbinder at cocktail parties - such as why Botswana is prospering and Sierra Leone isn’t. And it’s a great read. Like me, you may succumb to reading it in one go, and then you may come back to it again and again." (Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the best sellers Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse)

"A compelling and highly readable book. And [the] conclusion is a cheering one: The authoritarian ‘extractive’ institutions like the ones that drive growth in China today are bound to run out of steam. Without the inclusive institutions that first evolved in the West, sustainable growth is impossible, because only a truly free society can foster genuine innovation and the creative destruction that is its corollary." (Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money)

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  •  
    Paul Seattle, WA, United States 01-29-14
    Paul Seattle, WA, United States 01-29-14 Member Since 2012
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    "The foundations of nationhood - exposed!"
    Where does Why Nations Fail rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is my top book - ever. I'm an immigrant to the US and read one book a week, and over 30 years that's a lot of books. I'm not sure that this book will be so compelling for US born Americans - but it certainly could be. Comprehensive and complete. Maybe a little long and disjointed for some listeners - but not for me. I loved every moment! Go Brazil!


    What other book might you compare Why Nations Fail to and why?

    Perhaps "The man who loved China"... or "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" - both of which explored sweeping changes throughout history. This book is more though - it exposes the interweaving social systems that cause history to unfold as it does


    What does Dan Woren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Dan is a non obtrusive narrator. A master of the craft.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. Too many sections and stories to savor and digest.


    Any additional comments?

    I have 3 teenagers - and these 2 landmark books - "Why Nations Fail" and "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture" would be my first 2 additions to their "education". I know better than to suggest them though (the education of parents through experience :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Milkman Rochester, MN 10-05-13
    Milkman Rochester, MN 10-05-13 Member Since 2008

    Erasmus

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fire their editor"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Book repeats itself again & again. Authors need an editor to trim all that verbiage & trash those unnecessary sentences. A reader's digest condensed version should make this book readable.


    What could Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Learn to write more pithily.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    N/A


    Was Why Nations Fail worth the listening time?

    Don't bother


    Any additional comments?

    Came highly recommended but quite disappointing. Beats each point to death. Redundant reiteration of summary point to ad nauseam.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Haifaa Culver City, CA, United States 09-27-13
    Haifaa Culver City, CA, United States 09-27-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Thinking Book"
    What did you love best about Why Nations Fail?

    I like to listen on what makes nations work. This book covers that subject from an economic perspective.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David United States 08-10-13
    David United States 08-10-13
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    "Great Explanations team-up with Atlas Shrugs"
    What did you love best about Why Nations Fail?

    Great insight based upon historical examples. Explains what no one else (to my knowledge) has even attempted. It is a "Politically Correct" explanation of the incredible failures of countries and their stagnation over centuries and millenia. It does NOT put a feel-good "liberal" slant on the clear facts of history. A very long book that flows through history!


    What did you like best about this story?

    Very encompassing in that it covers all civilizations and eras. Does not compromise the facts and principles presented. I kept expecting a "surrender" for Mao, Chavez, Liberals, Socialists, Democrats, etc., The authors stuck to principles without pulling punches, or compromising, and did it very professionally without degrading the idiots and marauders of history or their present day acolytes.


    What about Dan Woren’s performance did you like?

    Pace, understanding ... no mistakes


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The Preceding History that Led to Atlas Shrugged


    Any additional comments?

    Outstanding effort of time and intellect of the authors is GREATLY APPRECIATED!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Praha 518, Czech Republic 06-01-13
    Martin Praha 518, Czech Republic 06-01-13 Listener Since 2010
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    "The West was lucky"

    The book explains in a very interesting way why it is so difficult to change the course of history of a society or country. It explains how the West was lucky to break free from the standard of history - oppressive and exploitative regimes. And tells you that you should not expect that an authoritative place will change for the just because there was a popular revolution or successful invasion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Sayre, OK, United States 05-14-13
    John Sayre, OK, United States 05-14-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Different look at things."

    What struck me was that this book seemed balanced. No doubt many will say that the author has some kind of agenda but I did not get that impression. Yes he is a commited capitalist with liberatian views, but he kept them checked. This is a fresh look at why nations fail, recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheryl Waunakee, WI, United States 03-18-13
    Cheryl Waunakee, WI, United States 03-18-13 Member Since 2011
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    "A completely different view of human development"
    What did you love best about Why Nations Fail?

    Dispelled so many conventional theories about why certain peoples live in national failure and poverty while others enjoy freedom and the luxury of goods and services. Their explanations of the nuances that create these differences are founded in extensive and responsible research.


    What other book might you compare Why Nations Fail to and why?

    Civilization by Niall Ferguson.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The comparisons and contrasts on North and South America, and what led to these differences, is original work. They do the same to certain areas of Africa with amazing insight.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Msuega Tese Luanda, West Africa 02-20-13
    Msuega Tese Luanda, West Africa 02-20-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Thoroughly Researched, Powerful & Balanced"
    What did you love best about Why Nations Fail?

    It is a very long book, but it didn't feel so. Every morning, I was eager to get out of the bed and traffic jam didn't annoy me at all until I finished listening to the book.


    This book confirms my believe that success or failure of nations and organisations has nothing to do with geography. It has to do with the systems that you setup.

    I think the title is more negative than the book itself. In trying to explain failure of nations, it provides so many positive examples of nations that have succeeded.I think the most appropriate title is:Why Nations Fail or Succeed.

    It focuses mainly on nations, but I find the lessons applicable to businesses as well. The challenge for me as an entrepreneur is to setup businesses that are not "extractive" in nature.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alberto Grosmark Columbia, Maryland 12-11-12
    Alberto Grosmark Columbia, Maryland 12-11-12 Member Since 2008

    AMG

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    "Simple and powerful model"
    Would you listen to Why Nations Fail again? Why?

    I have to come back to the details and cases that the book provides. It provides an extraordinary historical review and proving cases.


    What other book might you compare Why Nations Fail to and why?

    I do not think that the book can be compared to any other I have read in this area.


    What does Dan Woren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A simple and straightforward historical review and success/failure that can describe nations success.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    This book should be an amazing documentary which should be mandatory of viewing by each US Senator and Representative to understand how their decision making can impact the future of our country.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rey deming, NM, United States 08-20-12
    Rey deming, NM, United States 08-20-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A Painful Listen"

    I would recommend the book, but not as an audio book. Why is it that readers assume we want a book read like a bad PBS skit just because it is a history book? Why nations fail is a well researched, interesting piece of work. Dan Woren reads it like a Mass in Latin, boring, monotone, painful. Please, please, please, find someone to read it that will not put me to sleep while I drive!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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