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

I concluded recently Why Nations Fail (Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson). And it was an incredibly rewarding experience.

To be fair, I didn’t like much the beginning of the book. The contrasts presented between two cities across the boarder between the US and Mexico seemed more like a caricature of the reality, and perhaps a bit exaggerated, although certainly factually correct.

After that, though, the authors go through several other countries and regions of the world, with a plethora of interesting facts and historical pieces of information that just make their points very clear and their explicative model very plausible.

In short, the book claims that the degree of development of a nation corresponds to the levels of political and economic openness and general participation. And here the institutions of a country play an important role. There are namely inflection historical points that can change the structures of governing, and there is organizational drift that makes institutions “float” on the direction of more openness and development, or more concentration of power and inequalities.

Although the main argument may seem not very original, the book is very solid in giving various examples of how this dynamic took place in reality. And it also convincingly explains how development under concentrated pollical and economical institutions is actually possible, although not sustainable, when for example resources in society are reorganized from activities with lower productivity to others with high higher added value.

In short, this book is really interesting and it can be an important piece in composing the mosaic of knowledge we all should have about the reasons behind the levels of success in different parts of the world today.

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