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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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Peter 06-14-12
    Peter 06-14-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Clear, logical theory"
    What did you love best about Why Nations Fail?

    This book did a great job of allowing me to understand "why nations fail" It presents a logical and intelligent framework for viewing social history, without making specific predictions (save for a couple on China). Well worth the listen, even though for me, and 18 hour book needs to be done marathon style (1.5 weeks) or it will take a month or more to complete.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Karren Kingston, WA USA 02-28-13
    Scott Karren Kingston, WA USA 02-28-13 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nothing to learn here"
    What would have made Why Nations Fail better?

    Same old poly sci stuff. Same old concepts repackaged without any genuine insight. Could not force myself to finish it.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson again?

    No


    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William detroit, MI, USA 07-16-12
    William detroit, MI, USA 07-16-12
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    "Misses the forest for the trees"

    It appears that the authors like the US and this book is propaganda disguised as scholarly research meant to justify and also downplay US Imperialism. It glosses over the fact that not just some, but all of the natural resources the US enjoys to this day are the result of a massive theft. Much of the labor used to found the US was done by slaves. Much of the labor performed to this day is done by women and minorities who get paid decidedly less to do the same jobs as white men. I say these things not to criticize Americans or anything like that, but to highlight the ridiculousness of a theory of wealth/economics/freedom etc that doesn't address reality. This theory may be scholarly success and a hit with the ivory tower crowd, but its not useful or enlightening to anyone looking for truth.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David United States 07-02-12
    David United States 07-02-12 Member Since 2012
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    "A benchmark"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Why Nations Fail to be better than the print version?

    Listening to this book first allowed me to absorb the big over riding concepts in a relaxed manner. This also allowed me to appreciate the consistently high quality of writing style. I bought the book after listening to it in its entirety so I could reference some of the minutiae of this important work


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Why Nations Fail?

    About two chapters in you realize this is an important piece of scholarship that points the study of politics and the science of economics in new directions.


    What about Dan Woren’s performance did you like?

    Yes. The perfect voice for this work.


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

    The history of extractive elites resisting the evolution of inclusive democracies


    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trevor Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 06-20-12
    Trevor Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 06-20-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Very interesting book"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. It's informative and well reasoned, with an interesting survey of history told within the context of the book's central argument. It's not the sort of book that you can half pay attention to, even though many of the points are repeated a few times.


    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mats Strangnas, Sweden 06-18-12
    mats Strangnas, Sweden 06-18-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Very important in times of economic crisis"
    If you could sum up Why Nations Fail in three words, what would they be?

    Why nations succeed :)


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

    Clarity of the importance of freedom to create wealth for all!


    Any additional comments?

    I think they are correct on China! You only get some wealth for the elites when you do not have political freedom

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joanna Chicago, IL, United States 06-16-12
    Joanna Chicago, IL, United States 06-16-12 Member Since 2011

    Traveler. Artist. Dreamer.

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    "Amazing"

    This is an amazing overview of why certain nations are prosperous and why certain nations are not. The research on this must have not been easy, but the thesis seems to be supported with many examples. I am curious to see if the predictions will come to pass. It is not the most interesting book in the world at certain times and a bit repetitive, but if you like history and like to see why things prosper, you will like this book.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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