Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu
The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

77%

21 Critic Reviews

For economics and political-science students, surely, but also for the general reader who will appreciate how gracefully the authors wear their erudition.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

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.
 

About Daron Acemoglu

See more books from this Author
DARON ACEMOGLU is the Killian Professor of Economics at MIT. In 2005 he received the John Bates Clark Medal awarded to economists under forty judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.JAMES A. ROBINSON, a political scientist and an economist, is the David Florence Professor of Government at Harvard University. A world-renowned expert on Latin America and Africa, he has worked in Botswana, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, and South Africa.
 
Published March 20, 2012 by Crown Business. 545 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Why Nations Fail
All: 21 | Positive: 16 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Excellent
Jan 24 2012

For economics and political-science students, surely, but also for the general reader who will appreciate how gracefully the authors wear their erudition.

Read Full Review of Why Nations Fail : The Origin... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Paul collier on Mar 10 2012

For anyone remotely interested in these issues Why Nations Fail is a must-read....This alone would be reason to take notice: a vital topic, top scholars, and a well-written book.

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Wall Street Journal

Good
Reviewed by William Easterly on Mar 24 2012

"Why Nations Fail" is a vital work for these times, directing our attention to the big picture regarding the poverty and prosperity of nations.

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The Economist

Below average
Mar 10 2012

The intuition behind the theory is nonetheless compelling, which makes the scarcity of policy prescriptions frustrating.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Warren Bass on Apr 20 2012

It’s not. It’s bracing, garrulous, wildly ambitious and ultimately hopeful. It may, in fact, be a bit of a masterpiece.

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Business Week

Excellent
Reviewed by Peter Coy on Apr 19 2012

Ranging from imperial Rome to modern Botswana, this book will change the way people think about the wealth and poverty of nations.

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The New York Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Jared Diamond on Jun 07 2011

Whereas most writing by academic economists is incomprehensible to the lay public, Acemoglu and Robinson have written this book so that it can be understood and enjoyed by all of us who aren’t economists.

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Literary Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Eric Kaufmann

Though it contains flaws, Why Nations Fail is powerful and fascinating, informed by decades of careful scholarship....If this book can push institutions up the list of policymakers' priorities, it will do us all a great service.

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Times Higher Education

Excellent
Reviewed by Howard Davies on Mar 15 2012

Still, these minor irritations should not blind us to this book's great merits. The authors put themselves forward as presenting a fundamental challenge to Diamond...They have done so thoroughly and with imagination and care.

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Reason Magazine

Below average
Reviewed by Ronald Bailey on Apr 10 2012

Why Nations Fail is persuasive, but somewhat unsatisfying...Acemoglu and Robinson have convincingly identified the cure for poverty, but no one has yet figured out how to get the patients to take the medicine.

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Charlotte Observer

Excellent
Reviewed by Peter Coclanis on May 17 2012

...makes for compelling, sometimes even riveting reading. Playing off of the ’80s Oldsmobile commercial, this is definitely not your father’s econ book!

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Labour Uncut

Excellent
Reviewed by Anthony Painter on Apr 29 2012

Two things distinguish Why nations fail the simplicity of its argument and the sheer range and scope of historical references. Acemoglu and Robinson cover the Roman Empire, the history of Ethiopia, Congo, Bolivia...

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Los Angeles Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Ken McCormick on Apr 29 2012

Overall, this is an excellent, informative, and thought-provoking book.

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Finance & Development

Excellent
Reviewed by Nancy Birdsall

...a great read: ambitious and compelling in its combination of broad scope and fascinating detail.

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Hindustan Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Pramit Pal Chaudhuri on May 04 2012

Sadly, Acemoglu and Robinson have no perspective on post-liberalisation India....For those who despair of the present state of affairs in India, this book provides grounds to be reassured that, in the long run, we are all likely to be well-off.

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The American Interest

Below average
Reviewed by Francis Fukuyama on Mar 26 2012

One only wishes then that the authors had made better use of basic categories long in play in other parts of the social sciences...instead of inventing neologisms that obscure more than they reveal.

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Hacer Latin American News

Below average
Reviewed by Mr. Rohac on Mar 23 2012

“Why Nations Fail” is a splendid piece of scholarship and a showcase of economic rigor. But even so, it captures only part of the story. To understand economic growth at a deeper level we need to go beyond neoclassical economics...

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Weatherford Center for International Affairs, Harvard

Below average

But the authors give short shrift to the presence and meaning of Enlightenment ideals....The intuition behind the theory is nonetheless compelling, which makes the scarcity of policy prescriptions frustrating.

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The Kaplinsky Report

Good
Apr 28 2012

Whilst one may be tempted to view this query as a complex question...with lots of academic technical babble thrown for good measure, the authors surprisingly expound their argument with simplistic graphics and everyday prose.

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ProductivityandGrowth.com

Good
Reviewed by Charles Mann on Apr 18 2012

They assembled what is, in effect, a gigantic, super-complete database of every country’s history, and used it to ask questions... They found unexpected answers—ones that may not satisfy partisans of either side, but have the ring of truth.

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Dale & Co.

Good
Reviewed by Jerry Lockspeiser on Apr 06 2012

...a big, easy to read survey of what makes nations fail- and just as much what makes them succeed – packed with fascinating historical cases studies.

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