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Why Nations Fail Audiobook

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

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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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©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

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (1519 )
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Sort by:
  •  
    Ben 07-13-16
    Ben 07-13-16 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good, Not Great"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Labasz 06-29-16
    Joe Labasz 06-29-16 Member Since 2016
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    "would highly recommend."

    ideal for those who want to understand the news they see on Twitter and Facebook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Smarty San Francisco 06-09-16
    Smarty San Francisco 06-09-16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
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    Story
    "Same thing over and over"

    Interesting but it seems to be a long article turned into a book. It is just the same thing over and over.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew R. Mattila Los Angeles, CA 05-31-16
    Matthew R. Mattila Los Angeles, CA 05-31-16 Member Since 2015

    mattmatt

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "meh , extractive governments bad
    "

    was OK, cool premise but got old and repetitive. would have liked more nuance and discussion

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RGSCorp 05-31-16
    RGSCorp 05-31-16 Member Since 2017
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    "Availability biased. Also wrong about Brazil."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Jacobsen-Steigerwald Beaverton, OR United States 05-24-16
    J. Jacobsen-Steigerwald Beaverton, OR United States 05-24-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Great on target concepts and ideas"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Damion Brown 05-08-16 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    40
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    "pragmatic theory on growth differentials"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Francisco Madrid, Spain 05-07-16
    Francisco Madrid, Spain 05-07-16 Member Since 2007

    MD, PhD. Currently I'm Professor of Human Anatomy & Neuroscience at the Autonoma University School of Medicine in Madrid, Spain.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A vaccine of clear-thinking"
    Any additional comments?

    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...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James McDonough 05-03-16 Member Since 2016
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    10
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    "Interesting how economic institutions shape us."

    Interesting read on this authors perspective on how economic institutions shape our world. Worth the read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Swart 04-30-16
    Peter Swart 04-30-16 Member Since 2014
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    2
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    "Great story telling and insights"

    Very insightful coverage of events covering the globe and many centuries. Loved how development across cultures are summarized.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Judy Corstjens
    4/29/13
    Overall
    "History made science"

    Breathtaking sweep across time and geography, flying along on the coat-tails of a theory that is so intuitively acceptable that it almost makes you say 'duh'. A society's institutions, extractive (bad) or inclusive (good) explain the wealth of the society and the health and happiness of the common man (and, if you are really lucky, woman). I hated history at school because it didn't explain: just one damn thing after another. This does, right up to the end where they use their theory to predict the future success of current societies. It explains why 'state building' (e.g. in Afgahanistan) is such a challenge. The UK (a pioneer in modern state building) got properly started on the process in 1215, brought in universal education in about 1890 and gave women the vote in 1928. Mind expanding book.

    28 of 30 people found this review helpful
  • Petros
    3/2/15
    Overall
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    Story
    "Interesting only as a history book"

    Interesting only as a history book. The assumptions of the writers are in most cases based on an one sided interpretation of historical events and they are missing some very obvious points.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • M
    Wakefield, United Kingdom
    9/25/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Repetitive, but interesting."

    As has been said - repetitively - by other reviewers, this is a very repetitive book. And not just thematically. If you removed the words "inclusive", "extractive", "institutions", "glorious revolution of 1688" and ”creative destruction" the book would be about 9 hours shorter. It's still quite interesting (especially when they zoom in on specific histories, like with Botswana, Uzbekistan and Brazil, about which I knew nothing) and I kept going to the end, but the Grand Theory being espoused doesn't seem all that remarkable, unfortunately. (It can be summarised as: If your public institutions are strong enough to stop the gangsters from getting in charge, you're probably going to be okay, if not, you're screwed.) So, not bad, but not brilliant either. (Did I mention it's repetitive?")

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • julien
    county wicklow, Ireland
    3/28/13
    Overall
    "unconvincing"

    the authors repeat the same argument over and over, stretching vast amounts of historical examples to fit it's frame.



    The reflexion is weak and unconvincing, thus the authors resort to an aggressive and patronizing rhetoric to dismiss other theories regarding the disparity between nations. They seem particularly threatened by Jared Diamonds Gun, Germ and Steal, and rightly so.



    Although they would have us believe that we are responsible for our own misery or prosperity because of the institutions we live by, they then admit that there is no reason for one set of institutions to appear in one place rather than another, their explanation being a parallel between their theory and evolution, small institutional differences brought forward by crisis.



    there is no proper causal description, at best a messy pile of historical examples correlated with economic development. Whatever argument worth mentioning could have been said in a few paragraphs



    the fact that the authors are so pleased with themselves render the all experience rather unbearable.

    15 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • RalphBirch57
    12/16/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Repetitive and unconvincing even if true"
    What would have made Why Nations Fail better?

    Shorter and succinct.


    What will your next listen be?

    Ardennes 1944 by Anthony Beevor


    Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Dan Woren?

    no change as it wouldn't improve things


    What character would you cut from Why Nations Fail?

    Not that kind of book


    Any additional comments?

    Padded out

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Famiii
    London
    5/3/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • John Owen Byrne
    London
    1/28/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great companion to Diamond's work"

    This is a fantastic contrast to Jared Diamond's work on the origins of poverty. This should be required reading for anyone interested in the real sources of inequality. There is a slight danger in the book where anything that happens which is not consistent with the overall thesis becomes a 'contingency' of history. That said, the arguments are convincing and beautifully told.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Patrick
    Warrington, United Kingdom
    5/5/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brillianr explanation of the World we see today!"

    Why Nations Fail is one of the most thought provoking books I've ever listened to.

    This book explains in detail the reasons why we see the world as it is today. British, and in particular English creativity and entrepreneurism are at the heart of the story and describes how the actions of those people who wrestled power away from English elite society in the 17th century changed the face of the world for ever.

    Well worth a read if you want to know why the USA succeeded to become the most powerful country in the world and didn't end up as just another failed state.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • toptone
    St. Albans, Herts, UK
    6/9/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Informative"

    This is a very informative and well written book. It's long because it incorporates many actual histories and examples to illustrate its points. It is a little dated in parts because time moves on , for example, it holds Brazil up as an example of a society which has transitioned from an extractive to inclusive regime but we know now this is not, in fact, the case. Overall though, it is a good read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Sebastian Meiser
    Saarland
    11/17/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Repetitive, but interesting."

    Annoyingly repetitive, but I'd still consider it a good read. The book discusses the factors that influence economic growth and compares a large amount of historical events and developments to understand and undermine its main hypothesis: inclusive institutions are key.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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