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

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  11,643 Ratings  ·  1,205 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by Crown Business (first published 2012)
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Randal Samstag
Aug 21, 2016 Randal Samstag rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
The book Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson comes with book-jacket praise from the usual suspects: Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame, Jared Diamond of Collapse fame, Nobel Prize “laureate” George Akerlof, and Niall Ferguson, champion of imperialism. Thomas Freidman dashed off a quick review in his New York Times column for April 1, 2012. Freidman, the giddy fan of globalization, was ecstatic, although he admitted that he was “reading” the book, but not that he had “read” i ...more
Yalman Onaran
Jan 08, 2014 Yalman Onaran rated it it was ok
This could be written in one chapter or a long magazine piece. Has an interesting theory, but it just goes on for too long and not worth spending the time.
This economic history is, as far as it goes, excellent. The main thesis is ultra simple: nations must develop inclusive economic and political institutions if they are to achieve prosperity. Such political institutions include fair and free elections, an independent judiciary, uncorrupt legislative and executive branches etc etc. Inclusive economic institutions include financial controls such as (in the U.S.) the Fed, the SEC, trust breaking litigation, and so forth. The authors say all of these ...more
Their main thesis is very interesting - that there is a strong link between political/social institutions and the economic success or failure of a nation.

Compare Botswana, which has achieved remarkable growth despite the AIDS epidemic, and Zimbabwe. Compare South Korea, which was poor, and is now a regional power, to North Korea, where the huddled skeletal masses pluck corn kernels from feces to survive while the Kim clan gorged on cognac.

The main reason states are successful, say Acemoglu and R
Jul 07, 2012 Siew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Such an insightful and shocking book! The examples are very well-explained, and I truly enjoyed thinking and discussing the points raised in this book. Only if more people would read this book and understand that it is not for the lack of aid to poor countries, but the very political and economical structure of the country that makes it poor.

The whole inclusive and extractive political-economical standpoint is very interesting.

The only nitpick I would comment on: the book suffers from excessiv
Jun 09, 2012 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, economics
This is an excellent book about the reasons why some nations are prosperous, while others are steeped in poverty. The authors contend that some nations have "inclusive" economic and political policies. These policies give a political voice to a large segment of the population, rather than only to a small elite. As a result, a set of checks and balances tends toward a positive feedback, sometimes called a "virtuous cycle". This virtuous cycle helps to accelerate the tendencies toward ...more
Keith Swenson
Jan 06, 2014 Keith Swenson rated it really liked it
Overall: very very interesting and very important topic. I would give it 5 stars except it is very long, detailed, and not an easy read. However well worth it.

Thesis in brief: some countries are properous, and others are not. What causes the difference? Some are right next to each other and the difference in prosperity can not be explained by geography, climate, or even culture. Instead it is the system, and what is it about the system that explains the difference. They elaborate a theory that t
Jun 23, 2012 Max rated it liked it
I think the premise of this book is fantastic, and the first 50 pages were terrific. Beyond that, I was pretty disappointed by the execution.

The book is built upon the theory that it is not economic policies, but rather "institutions" (such as good governance, social norms and a strong legal system) that play the fundamental role in economic growth and development. I find this to be a compelling theory and I think it is an extremely useful framework from which to view economic and political dev
Sep 05, 2012 Daan rated it liked it
The hypothesis is clear very early on; what follows is an evidence-loaded journey that keeps hammering the intriguing and simple message home: that extractive, exclusive institutions wreck a country while profiting the elite who holds the power to change the institutions ; and inclusive institutions provide a country with economical growth, while on the long run providing mechanisms through which inclusive institutions are kept.

As many other reviewers have noted, they are however simplistic in p
Jeff Kelleher
Dec 27, 2013 Jeff Kelleher rated it it was amazing
A ragged and somewhat bloated masterpiece.

The core theme here is not new: sustained prosperity arises where there is pluralistic government under the rule of law. To the extent a society approaches this structure, which the authors call "inclusive," it develops inclusive--ie, open-- economic institutions, where no elite can obstruct progress. This is contrasted with "extractive" economies, stultified by political elites who repress the "creative destruction" that drives growth but threatens thei
Atila Iamarino
Jan 19, 2016 Atila Iamarino rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economia
Bom, um tanto longo demais e um tanto deprimente. Uma análise da situação político/econômica das nações, que defende que o que faz um país próspero é uma economia inclusiva, em contraste com uma economia extrativista. Bom porque achei que o argumento tem um ótimo poder descritivo, mesmo ignorando as condições naturais que o Jared Diamond tanto cita em Guns, Germs, and Steel : The Fates of Human Societies e Colapso. Longo demais porque dão explicações muito detalhadas do que é basicamente uma out ...more
Đông Huynh
Aug 09, 2015 Đông Huynh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
- Vài ghi chú nhỏ:

Tư tưởng chủ đạo của tác giả đã quá rõ ràng, ngay từ đầu và xuyên suốt các chương sách: Các quốc gia có nền chính trị đa nguyên và thể chế dung hợp sẽ thịnh vượng, giàu có và phát triển hơn những quốc gia nó nền chính trị chuyên chế, hoặc nền chính trị phi tập trung hóa quyền lực (như một số quốc gia ở Châu Phi), vì nó tạo điều kiện cho kinh tế thương mại phát triển, và cơ hội trở nên giàu có cho các cá nhân, thay vì cướp đoạt tài sản và sự thịnh vượng vào tay những nhóm lợi íc
Feb 21, 2014 Heidi rated it it was ok
The central idea of the book is that states fail because of their political institutions, namely because of their extractive nature. This thesis is extremely simplistic.
Economic processes are never this one-dimensional. The authors argue that the three theories of poverty (nations are poor because of their unfortunate geographic location, their culture does not facilitate growth and the West simply does not know how to transform poor countries into rich ones) are completely irrelevant which I di
I found this book very interesting. I found the book very satisfying in ways that "Guns, Germs and Steel" was not; countries are not poor because of initial resource conditions or ignorance on how to become more prosperous. More often, those in power create political and economic structures to secure power while sacrificing the long-term welfare of the rest of the nation, crippling a country's ability to adapt to changing conditions or use labor and resources efficiently. The book stresses the ...more
Feb 08, 2013 Alex rated it liked it
I could have given this book 4-stars, but I felt 3 were more appropriate in the end. I really think this book's title is a misnomer: it should be "How Nations Fail." I agree the extractive/inclusive dichotomy of political institutions is a useful and explanatory model of a country's economic success and failure. I think it explains much of how a nation/political organization fails. I also like how they point out that failure can take time, and things may look good for a time before they start ...more
Darren Hawkins
Dec 10, 2013 Darren Hawkins rated it really liked it
The book is written for a general audience, and if you're feeling smart and ambitious, it is well worth reading. It aims to be the "Guns, Germs, and Steel" of the social sciences. The thesis in "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is that Geography/Climate is Destiny. Civilization arose and thrived where geography and climate endowed people with the most nutritious and easily cultivatable food. Those locations created dynamic human societies that gave rise to complex socio-political institutions, ...more
Joni Baboci
"Why Nations Fail" is an engaging political, historical and economic analysis of civilization's development. Although the book becomes a tiny bit repetitive in stating and restating it's thesis at times, it breaks the trend by including great short bits of developmental process throughout history.

I especially liked chapter 14 "Breaking the Mold" which illustrated how countries through the entropic and contingent nature of development (here called institutional drift) break the mold and switch fr
Andrej Karpathy
Oct 12, 2015 Andrej Karpathy rated it really liked it
I read this as part of the Mark Zuckerberg book club :) Why are some nations rich and some poor? Is it geographical? Cultural? This book argues that, to a first order approximation, it is the economic and political institutions that influence this property, based on whether they are inclusive and pluralistic, or extractive, where a small elite rules over the population. The book goes over many examples of countries/regions throughout history, e.g. Maya, Rome, Venice, France/Spain/Britain/New ...more
Bill Leach
Mar 15, 2013 Bill Leach rated it it was ok
Actually, I didn't really like WNF. I believe there is real value in the concept of extractive institutions, but the book did a poor job of presenting it. In general, they spent too much time on historical illustrations (probably 80% of the book). It is very hard to extract their conclusions which are hidden away among the historical examples. Also, I felt they spent too much time branding this as extractive and that as inclusive without detailing why it is so.

Any good theory should be predictiv
Steven Peterson
Jun 29, 2013 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
This book explores why some nations fail and others do not. The authors lay out their thesis early on (Pages 3-4): "Countries such as Great Britain and the United States became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society where political rights were much more broadly distributed, where the government was accountable and responsive to citizens, and where the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities."

In the process of addres
Fred R
Apr 28, 2012 Fred R rated it it was ok
To Acemoglu and Robinson, the economic prosperity of a nation is a direct function of its political institutions, which in turn are dependent only on historical contingencies. "Extractive" political structures create an economy only to benefit the small ruling class (and therefore are extremely hostile to the wealth-creation of creative destruction, which can only harm the interests of this ruling class. "Inclusive" political institutions, on the other hand, create incentives for large-scale ...more
mohsen pourramezani
نویسندگان کتاب دو اقتصاددان امریکایی (دارون عجم‌اوغلو استاد دانشگاه ام‌آی‌تی و جیمز رابینسون استاد دانشگاه هاروارد) هستند که با ارائه‌ یک نظریه‌ی اقتصادی-سیاسی و همراه با مثال‎های تاریخی فراوان علت پیشرفت و عقب ماندگی کشورها را بیان می‌کنند. بخشی از نظریه‌ی آنها این است: «هم افزایی شدیدی میان نهادهای اقتصادی و سیاسی وجود دارد. نهادهای سیاسی استثماری قدرت را در دست گروه کوچکی از فرادستان متمرکز می‌سازند و محدودیت‌های اندکی بر این قدرت اعمال می‌کنند. ساختار نهادهای اقتصادی غالبا توسط این هیئت ...more
Akshat Upadhyay
Aug 07, 2015 Akshat Upadhyay rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2015
Too repetitive, this book though providing a wide array of examples, keeps on harping the same tune over and over again. Yes I get it, inclusive political institutions are better than extractive ones (duh) but there is no need to hammer it for a swathe of almost 500 pages. This idea could have been wrapped up in one or max two chapters. Poor attempt
Acemoglu and Robinson’s central thesis isn’t hard to understand: countries with inclusive, equitable political and economic institutions tend to prosper, while those with extractive, exclusive institutions geared towards the interests of a small elite tend to languish. The authors minimize geography and culture as significant factors in the equation, pointing to nations where those realities are similar but political systems vary.

The dynamic exists, the authors maintain, because the interests of
Jul 03, 2016 Arvind rated it really liked it
As a child in the pre-liberalisation era of the early 90s, this question used to occur to me many-a-times "Why is my country poor (both in absolute and relative terms) and the West so prosperous?". The first answer was British rule. Accepted. And we must hence fear WTO and MNCs coming to India. Accepted too. Was destined to be a typical future citizen of a socialist republic.
Then I read about communism/socialism and how it failed in curing inequality and poverty both. But, maybe its the corrupti
May 09, 2014 Yazeed rated it it was amazing
This was a great and entertaining read.

The basic argument that the authors present is that the success, or failure, of a nation depends solely on the nature of its political and economic institutions, or lack of any. The argument is very compelling, and the authors spend much of the book explaining how the this theory explains the rise and fall of many nations, from the Roman empire, to the industrial revolution, and the rise of England as a global military and economic power before WWI. They a
May 21, 2012 Emily rated it it was amazing
Look, I'm just going to give this a full-frontal, five star review, even though in my heart of hearts I'm a tiny bit worried that there might be a bit of confirmation bias going on here. Yes, there were some omissions (I don't think Scandinavia was mentioned much) but overall, I dug the fact the authors had three or four drums that they BEAT INTO THE GROUND without ever getting tedious. International developmental agencies--hi there! Take a look at this! Understand that you can't engineer a ...more
Mik Chernomordikov
Фундаментальный труд про анализ исторического развития разных регионов мира - Великобритании, Латинской Америки, США, Африки и других
Автор пытается вывести правила, по которым страны могут переходить от бедности к процветанию и обратно
Упор сделан на политические и экономические институты, плюрализм и свободную конкуренцию

Рекомендую прочитать отзыв профессора ВШЭ Константина Сонина -
Feb 27, 2016 sepehrdad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"چرا کشورها شکست میخورند" کتابی به شدت خواندنی است. دارون عجم اوغلو و جیمز رابینسون نظریهای سیاسی اقتصادی را با قصههایی فراوان از تاریخ کشورهای گوناگون جهان و با زبانی خیلی ساده و روایی ارائه میکنند.
نظریههای زیادی در مورد الگوهای رشد و فقر و غنا در جهان وجود دارند. عجم اوغلو و رابیسنون یک یک آنها را نام میبرند و بعد مثال نقضها را میگویند تا ثابت کنند که این نظریهها کار نمیکنند.
فرضیهی جغرافیا عامل اصلی تفاوت ثروت در کشورهای جهان را تفاوتهای جغرافیایی میدان
Why is it that there are such huge differences is living standards around the world? Why is it, that certain nations have become rich and will become ever more richer, while other countries time and time again, fail to improve their living standards?

In this book, Daron Acemoğlu proposes a refreshingly simple theory that explains the main contours of economic and political development around the world sine the Neolithic Revolution.

The theory discards some existing (and widely accepted) theories
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Daron Acemoglu is the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2005 he won the prestigious John Bates Clark medal, awarded to the best economist under 40.
More about Daron Acemoğlu...

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“Economic institutions shape economic incentives: the incentives to become educated, to save and invest, to innovate and adopt new technologies, and so on. It is the political process that determines what economic institutions people live under, and it is the political institutions that determine how this process works.” 12 likes
“As we will show, poor countries are poor because those who have power make choices that create poverty.” 8 likes
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