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:
Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.
©2012 Daron Acemoglu (P)2012 Random House
"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)
Full of interesting facts and historical anecdotes, but it struggles to piece those together into an extremely compelling or convincing framework. Somewhat vague as to the definitions of its own key ideas. For all that, an enjoyable look at the economic and political history of nations.
was OK, cool premise but got old and repetitive. would have liked more nuance and discussion
Interesting theory's. No one can disagree that extractive institutions are extremely harmful.
However the book is full of availability biases (authors should read Daniel Kahneman and Nassim Taleb's books).
Authors were also proved completely wrong about Brazil's Lula trajectory. His government were an extreme version of extractive institutions under a skin of pluralistic marketing.
The most important contribution the authors could have made was not covered: how to identify (at present) which are and are not extractive institutions. Of course, there is no definitive answer.
Very enlightening. It really helps understand why nations fail. The book is s bit too long and hard to follow in audio. Suggest a condensed version in audiobook.
Anybody interested in the policy steps necessary to improve growth and social mobility within developing countries should read this book. It identifies the main underlying determinants as to why some areas have become rich, by lookig at the institutional framework rather than the specific policy.
A thoughtful, rigorously argued --and very readable!-- Economic History work by MIT professors Acemoglu and Robinson.Authors explore world history from the Neolithic to the present to support a central thesis: Equity is efficiency. Successful societies are the result of egalitarian institutions that allow the exercise of individual rights by everyone and competition based on performance.A vaccine of clear-thinking against both "realist" fatalism and revolutionary messianism. It should be compulsory reading for politicians (and for intellectuals at large) in Latin American and Southern European countries, including mine...
"Brilliant! Revolutionise politics and economics"
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson may well have done for political economy what Facastaro, Louis Pasteur and others who proposed and proved the germ theory did for medicine.
Before them there was confusion, after their work was accepted medicine made rapid progress in delivering real and effective treatments and winning the battle against disease.
Acemoglu and Robinson's theory of inclusive political institutions as being the key difference between the wealth and poverty of nations not only rings true, but their trip around the world repeating history through the lens of the theory makes a compelling case.
My main criticism is that the authors, like most academics (and politicians) went some way to critique the work of Jarred Diamond, David Lownes and others. My knowledge of the world is that whilst there are often dominant factors, there are seldom exclusive factors in explaining outcomes in complex systems. And whilst the theory is effective at explaining much of the variation in wealth in the modern world (e.g. Why the US is richer than Brazil) it does not explain everything (e.g. Why agriculture was discovered only once in Eurasia but twice and much later in Sub Saharan Africa, or even the difference between Canada and the USA). Just as germs don't cause every type of sickness.
Despite this it is an outstanding book, compelling read and must reading for politicians, economists, charities and others who shape national policy.
"A Very Insightful Book"
The book has to offer some very solid insights into why nations fail and how the present world has taken this shape over the last five centuries. Theory is very sound. It has great lessons for the policy makers and politicians of underdeveloped countries BUT they won’t take these lessons, as they are busy in “creative destruction”.
Despite being a very good theory the book has been presented in less than perfect way. Repetitive arguments and examples make it quite boring listen at times. A couple of times I seriously thought of quitting as every argument was becoming too obvious and predictable. I think the authors should seriously take some time and try to cut at least 30%-40% off the book.
Narration has been very good.
Fascinating at every turn, this book is essential for anyone seeking an understanding of the global economy and its historical context.
"Thought provoking and lots of interesting history"
The core idea is brilliant.
The examples from world history are fascinating.
The discussion of past theories on the subject are thought provoking.
When in the UK the elites were whigs and Tories, they actually decided to live by the rule 'of' law. This was because of the history in regard of the the fact that the ECW and glorious revolution were revolutions against absolutism, as opposed to just another elite. It was also because of the fact that there were now many more paws in government, so it was harder for the Whigs not to just become another set of elites.
It might help if the reader knew the basics of English history.
It is a truism that "for every complex question there is a simple answer, and it's wrong". The authors attempt to reduce nearly all of social and political history to a single proposition about whether societies develop inclusive or extractive institutions. While I've no doubt this is a significant factor, I doubt very much that it is the only one, and I suspect it is not even the most important. As other reviewers have noted, the text is rather laboured and repetitive, and would benefit from some redaction.
I would recommend Niall Ferguson's Civilisation instead. It bears comparison because it is also aiming to explain why some nations have been more successful than others. It is similarly somewhat simplifying and selective, but Ferguson identifies six separate factors, which is surely much more plausible than one. It is also more lively and interesting to listen to.
Clear and detailed argument put forward
Looking back in hindsight at how much new knowledge I have gained from listening to it.
Great book, I highly recommend
"Not really what the title says"
It's an interesting look back at the history of how many of the world's richest nations came to be that way, but that's not really what the title says it's about. It doesn't highlight why nations fail, only how the successful ones got where they are.
No, too long, too boring, to badly read.
Not based on this.
There are books that you can’t put down and there are books you can’t wait to end. This was the latter for me.
The experience started badly in fairness. The opening chapters are a deluge of information and facts that come at you in an endless tirade with barely a pause for breath (literally in the audio version). Dan Woren reads the words legibly enough (if with some odd pronunciations to British ears), but so quickly and with so little emphasis on important points as to make it overwhelming.
After being bamboozled at the start, I found myself often having to skip back and re-listen to sections because I’d tuned out. I’m not sure if that was down to the laconic voice or the unengaging content.
Don’t let the title fool you either, this isn’t about why nations fail. It’s a history lesson in why some countries are rich and others poor in the modern world. It charts everything from the Glorious Revolution in England, to the exploitation of South America by the Spanish, to the rise of China.
Their argument is simple enough: inclusive institutions. By that, they mean political and social institutions where the people have a say, be that laws to insure the state can’t simple take what you have built, or democratically elected officials.
That’s not a reason why nations fail, its a reason why they don’t have long term stability, which generally seems to come along with prosperity, education and free discussion, looking at the examples stated.
I’m reading a similar book, Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion, which delves into far more detail about the reasons nations fail to get out of poverty, and provides much greater insight.
Why Nations Fail is actually a history book, a look back at how various countries navigated their way into the top tier, or at least put themselves on the path towards it.
The book doesn’t attempt to provide answers, other than ‘because they don’t have inclusive institutions.’ It’s an interesting look back at the reasons certain things happened in particular countries, although each of those can only go so deep. It really only serves to highlight how little any of them shared.
If economic history interests you, then worth a look, but if you want to understand why nations fail, look elsewhere.
I intend to listen to this again. There is so much information that a second reading would be essential in a few months. However, this will be more of a duty than a pleasure because I often found the reading style irritating.
This is a unique book. I have read (or tried to read) other books on economic theory but none so readable and in my opinion, none so based in the real world.
Dan Woren did not do a good job. He got through the admittedly difficult concepts well enough but became gratingly irritating with the many non-English pronunciations. He started off reading Spanish words and names so authentically that I had trouble making out some of them, he then tried to pronounce African or Arabic names with a slight Spanish accent, obviously thinking that this would make it more authentic--it did not and it often resulted in the emphasis going on to the wrong parts of the words. When he got to the Chinese names, Woren gave up altogether and used the standard English approximations. The result was a ridiculous patchwork which reduced the effectiveness of what the authors had to say. The various subjects of this book's focus range all over the world and since Woren obviously does not have a comprehensive command (or even knowledge) of the huge variety of languages involved--and I cannot blame him for that--he should have stuck to a uniform English pronunciation throughout. I cannot say, though, whether this was Woren's fault or the director's. Certainly the director has to bear some of the responsibility for this mish-mash.
the mystery of poverty explained...
I'm glad I heard it.
"too long and repetitive"
I suppose it is repeating so that the listener gets the message.
they repeat the message so much that I got sick of hearing it.
but because it gives so many answers I give it 5 stars.
he held my attention.
stop trade protectionism.
"Disappointing and painfully boring"
I usually do not write negative reviews but having listened to the whole book, I am surprised of the positive reviews. Perhaps it would have been different if I was to read the printed version, where I would have been able to skim read through some of the chapters. Most of all, I found this book extremely boring to listen to, very repetitive, and what I distaste the most is that the logic was flawed, and wrong. The author was drawing conclusion and assumptions, using historical events and facts, but jumping from one country to the other, and one age to another, with no particular connection, order or timeline. The action-consequence link is missing, and although I cannot vouch for all of the historical references, but some of them were either biased, or not completely the true account of events for that age. It is true that the author is merely presenting a theory, and perhaps there is some evidence to support that extractive vs inclusive institutional arrangements bear great influence on the progress or decline of nations. But it felt like he was picking a number of historical references, not necessarily linked, but just because they were convenient to use as examples. Examples do not make for a theory, it is the logic that holds a theory together! I am willing to accept some of his valid assumptions. However, because of the flaws in his logic and evidence, the bias of his Americanized point of view, and because he did not take into account a number of factors, apart from political and economic, such as socio-cultural, which are of as much importance, I could not make myself to side with his theory.
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