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Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson - Excerpt

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson - Excerpt

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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.

To read more about Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu, or James Robinson please visit Crown Publishing Group at www.crownpublishing.com.
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.

To read more about Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu, or James Robinson please visit Crown Publishing Group at www.crownpublishing.com.

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Published by: Crown Publishing Group on Feb 29, 2012
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03/03/2014

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and his deputy, Sir Thomas Dale, was a work regime of draconian

severity for English settlers—though not of course for the elite run-

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Map 2: Population density in 1500 in the Americas

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So Close and Yet So Different • 25

ning the colony. It was Dale who propagated the “Lawes Divine,

Morall and Martiall.” This included the clauses

No man or woman shall run away from the colony to the

Indians, upon pain of death.

Anyone who robs a garden, public or private, or a vine-

yard, or who steals ears of corn shall be punished

with death.

No member of the colony will sell or give any commodity

of this country to a captain, mariner, master or sailor

to transport out of the colony, for his own private

uses, upon pain of death.

If the indigenous peoples could not be exploited, reasoned the

Virginia Company, perhaps the colonists could. The new model of

colonial development entailed the Virginia Company owning all the

land. Men were housed in barracks, and given company-determined

rations. Work gangs were chosen, each one overseen by an agent of

the company. It was close to martial law, with execution as the pun-

ishment of first resort. As part of the new institutions for the colony,

the first clause just given is significant. The company threatened with

death those who ran away. Given the new work regime, running

away to live with the locals became more and more of an attractive

option for the colonists who had to do the work. Also available, given

the low density of even indigenous populations in Virginia at that

time, was the prospect of going it alone on the frontier beyond the

control of the Virginia Company. The power of the company in the

face of these options was limited. It could not coerce the English set-

tlers into hard work at subsistence rations.

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