Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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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 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.
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|Listening Length||17 hours and 55 minutes|
|Author||Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||March 20, 2012|
|Publisher||Random House Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank||
#2,612 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals)
#2 in Economic Public Policy
#2 in Comparative Political Science
#5 in Non-US Legal Systems (Books)
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Tainter’s theory is that powerful nations collapse because their institutions have become more and more complex and require more and more effort from their citizens with less and less to show for it, with the result that the fringes of the state start to crumble and the people either die off or move away. He cites many examples but the main ones he concentrates upon are Lowland Classic Maya of Central America, the Western Roman Empire, and the collapse of the Chacoan civilization of northern New Mexico . He argues that States ruling without competition compared with those ruling in polities of equal strength, leads him to the conclusion that collapse can only occur in a power vacuum.
The authors of this book take an entirely different approach. Their arguments are primarily ones which are based on economical and political institutions . They firmly reject that there are arguments that the reasons nations fail are due to geographic, cultural or ignorance. But they do recognize that all have one thing in common and that the rule is by a narrow elite whose main focus is on maintaining and/or expanding their own interests at the expense of the rest of the population which they govern.
The following is a summary of the contents of this book, which I will comment on later :
Chapter 1 SO CLOSE AND YET SO DIFFERENT
Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, have the same people, culture, and geography. Why is one rich and one poor?
Chapter 2 THEORIES THAT DON'T WORK
Poor countries are poor not because of their geographies or cultures, or because their leaders do not know which policies will enrich
their citizens. The interests of narrow elites and the long agony of the Congo.
Chapter 3 THE MAKING OF PROSPERITY AND POVERTY
How prosperity and poverty are determined by the incentives created by institutions, and how politics determines what institutions a nation has. Extractive and inclusive economic and political institutions
Chapter 4 SMALL DIFFERENCES AND CRITICAL JUNCTURES: THE WEIGHT OF HISTORY
How institutions change through political conflict and how the past shapes the present. The Black Death, the contingent path of history.
Chapter 5 "I'VE SEEN THE FUTURE, AND IT WORKS": GROWTH UNDER EXTRACTIVE INSTITUTIONS
What Stalin, King Shyaam, the Neolithic Revolution, and the Maya city-states all had in common and how this explains why China's current economic growth cannot last
Chapter 6 DRIFTING APART
How institutions evolve over time, often slowly drifting apart – Venice, Roman virtues and vices, Roman Britain, Diverging paths.
Chapter 7 THE TURNING POINT
How a political revolution in 1688 changed institutions in England and led to the Industrial Revolution
Chapter 8 NOT ON OUR TURF: BARRIERS TO DEVELOPMENT
Why the politically powerful in many nations opposed the Industrial Revolution and enduring backwardness: Ottoman Empire, Spain, Hapsburg and Russian Empires, Ming and Qing dynasties, Somalia,
Chapter 9 REVERSING DEVELOPMENT
How European colonialism impoverished large parts of the world – Dutch East Indies, African slave trade, South African apartheid.
Chapter 10 THE DIFFUSION OF PROSPERITY
How some parts of the world took different paths to prosperity from that of Britain – Australia, the French Revolution, Europe, Japan; The roots of world inequality.
Chapter 11 THE VIRTUOUS CIRCLE
How institutions that encourage prosperity create positive feedback loops that prevent the efforts by elites to undermine them. British Reform acts, Trust busting in the US, Failed attempts to pack Supreme Courts.
Chapter 12 THE VICIOUS CIRCLE
How institutions that create poverty generate negative feedback loops and endure. Collapse of infrastructure in Sierra Leone, Land grab in Guatemala, Slavery to Jim Crow, Oligarchy in Ethiopia.
Chapter 13 WHY NATIONS FAIL TODAY
Institutions, institutions, institutions and why nations fail. ; Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Colombia, Argentina, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Egypt,
Chapter 14 BREAKING THE MOLD
How a few countries changed their economic trajectory by changing their institutions. Botswana, US Civil Rights, China’s rebirth
Chapter 15 UNDERSTANDING PROSPERITY AND POVERTY
How the world could have been different and how understanding this can explain why most attempts to combat poverty have failed – Authoritarian growth (China), Failure of foreign aid (Afghanistan),Empowerment (Brazil)
The main thesis that the authors put forward is fairly straightforward. First of all the state must be sufficiently centralized that its rulers and ruling elite can actually govern it. The second is that Economic and Political institutions established in the state are inclusive enough that a significant portion of the population have significant powers to prevent the control by a narrow elite, and that the state is governed by the rule of law in which the rights of all – justice, property, education, economic and political - are adequately protected and are difficult to be removed.
The concept of contingent events – like the Black Death in which a major portion of the population died, provided an opportunity for a slow but sure change in the political development of western European countries as the rulers had to start to take into account the needs and demands of those which supported them – leading to the development of large cities, with merchants and guilds. Another was the discovery of the Americas which – particularly in Latin America – was primarily a looting operation that simply replaced the native ruling elites with European ones.
The authors use the establishment of the North American colonies (which was a century later than that of Latin America) to describe how those colonists found it extremely difficult to exploit the local population and had to be self sufficient for their own survival. The slow development of a larger more wealthy portion of the English populations led to the English Civil War, and the eventual establishment of a more constitutional monarchy. This is described in some detail in Chapter 7 and showed how Britain and subsequently the US industrialized and slowly established more and more inclusive institutions which are so important for the development of their modern democracies.
There are course, many descriptions of the ups and downs of this progress, but the book does an excellent job of explaining the successes and failures of various states in all continents of the world – and why this has resulted in the current world political reality.
The difficulty I have with this book is that the authors are unable to offer solutions to dealing with the problems of failed states. I suppose that is probably too much to ask for, and the final chapter makes an effort to address this issue – which is more or less an appeal to influential persons to be informed of the failures of aid programs to alleviate poverty, and to understand why those policies may fail if the funds only end up in the hands of the oligarchic rulers. And they certainly do not address the many powerful international organizations such as FIFA, IOC, (and to some extent the UNO) which are observably corrupt and tend only to serve the “narrow elite ” who run those organizations.
I am also dubious about some of the arguments used in favour of “Creative Destruction” which seem to be more effective in more successful democracies than those which are anything but democratic. What is the purpose of creative destruction when it can also destroy the foundations of a developing state?.
I do agree that the development of a successful state is a slow one – although it appears that the French experience after the Revolution and the Napoleonic era effectively swept away the institutions of the old regime, such that a new structure had to be created in its place – and today (even if you do not agree with its political philosophies) it is one of the more powerful and successful democracies. And I agree with the proposition that you cannot legislate prosperity. I think, however, that the authors are being somewhat optimistic in arguing that current success stories will actually lead to long term success.
What is interesting about the book is the there is little or no discussion on the impact of religion on the development of the state which is probably just as well, because once you can get on that topic then you enter the realm of beliefs and articles of faith, and any possibility of reasoned analysis tends to be glossed over as irrelevant.
I found this book to be very readable and the arguments in support of their thesis very easy to follow. But as they say, economics is a dismal science and there are indeed few heroes and many villains in this account. I can understand why this book has been so well received, because it is provides strong justification as to why the western democracies have been so successful. I would certainly recommend it to other readers who have similar interests to my own. I give it 5 stars.
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Países com instituições extrativas são chamados assim porque têm instituições projetadas para extrair renda e riqueza de uma parte da população e tranferir para outra. Geralmente a maior parte da população é explorada para beneficiar uma minoria que domina o poder. Já instituições inclusivas têm o poder distribuído em grande parte da população, que garantem direitos mais igualitários a todos e uma participação mais ampla na economia e política. Instituições econômicas inclusivas incentivam a população a trabalhar e gerar riqueza, levando o país a prosperidade. A garantia da propriedade privada também tem um papel essencial essencial para incentivar o trabalho e ela é garantida por instituições políticas inclusivas. Os autores dão alguns exemplos para mostrar que fatores geográficos, climáticos e culturais não são tão relevantes quanto a característica das instituições dominantes no países. Entre os exemplos estão as duas Coreias e as cidades de Nogales, que dividem fronteira entre os EUA e o México.
Dentre as histórias contadas no livro, a história de Botswana me chamou bastante atenção. Eu não fazia ideia de que esse era um dos países mais desenvolvidos da África e que não foi colônia de nenhum país europeu. Botswana tem um histórico longo de governos democráticos e nunca teve uma ditadura militar. O país hoje tem o padrão de vida médio equivalente ao do México. Segundo o livro, o sucesso de Botswana se deve a raízes democráticas desde o seu sistema tribal, que permitia ao chefe da tribo ser eleito por méritos e não por hereditariedade. As decisões tomadas pelos chefes também envolviam reuniões em que todos tinham voz igual. Em tempos mais recentes, durante o século XX, uma peregrinação dos líderes tribais de Botswana pelo Reino Unido evitou que Cecil Rhodes, o "dono" da África do Sul colonial, invadisse o país e garantiu sua autonomia.
Como exemplos de nações onde as instituições eram extrativas e culminaram na falência do estado, o livro explora os casos de Serra Leoa e Zimbábue. Em tristes relatos, é explicado em detalhes como a colonização britânica criou as instituições extrativas que levaram a base para o caos atual nos países. Como na maior parte das colônias africanas após a independência, um governo tirano tomou o poder e conseguiu e se tornar mais duro ainda que os anteriores. Procure sobre a vida de Robert Mugabe e Siaka Stevens para saber um pouco mais do que esses ditadores são capazes. Para ser ter uma ideia, no Zimbábue quando o banco federal organizou um loteria para todos os clientes, o vencedor inusitadamente foi o próprio Mugabe. Aí dá pra ter uma ideia do grau de corrupção desses países.
Um mecanismo que age em países com instituições extrativas é o ciclo vicioso que mantém essas instituições funcionando. Em um regime totalitário os poderes do ditador são muito grandes em comparação com os poderes de um presidente de uma democracia inclusiva. A chegada ao poder também leva a um enriquecimento pessoal enorme. E caso esse ditador perca o poder para outro, ele provavelmente será perseguido e até morto pelo novo líder. Essas circunstâncias levam a um apego ao cargo maior em países mais extrativos, levando a perseguição da oposição, da imprensa livre e às liberdades da população. Esse ciclo vicioso torna mais difícil a mudança de instituições extrativas para instituições inclusivas. Há também o caso inverso que é chamado de ciclo virtuoso e ocorre em países inclusivos. Ele torna mais difícil o caminho para ditadores em potencial, uma vez que o poder está distribuído por diversas instituições com diferentes interesses e que acabam servindo de oposição entre si. No livro isso é explicado em bem mais detalhes e com exemplos reais.
A descrição da Revolução Gloriosa foi muito interessante. Não conheço muito sobre a história do Reino Unido e já me questionei sobre quando e como a Inglaterra deixou de ser uma monarquia absolutista e se criou a figura do parlamento, limitando o poder dos reis. Isso se deu início justamente na Revolução Gloriosa, a semente das instituições inclusivas no país que permitiram que a revolução industrial ocorresse lá e não em outro lugar. No resto da Europa ocidental o papel de Napoleão foi muito importante para o surgimento de instituições mais inclusivas. Nos vários países que Napoleão dominou, ele implantou um conjunto de leis baseadas no direito romano que buscava garantir a igualdade de todos perante a lei. Esse sistema legal ficou conhecido como código napoleônico e foi mantido mesmo após a queda e Napoleão. Esse foi um dos motivos porque os países que foram dominados por Napoleão adotaram rapidamente a revolução industrial. Outros países como o império russo, o Otomano e o Austro-húngaro permaneceram absolutistas até a primeira guerra mundial.
A forma de colonização dos EUA e da Austrália são descritas e comparadas com as formas colonização da América Latina. É triste relembrar mais uma vez como os colonizadores tiveram uma relevância enorme no sucesso dos países que foram colônias. Na América do Sul, os espanhóis e portugueses montaram uma indústria altamente extraída porque as condições eram favoráveis. Havia uma alta densidade de população local que podia ser escravizada, terras férteis para produção agrícola, muitas riqueza naturais como a prata e o ouro. As colônias nos EUA e Austrália foram diferentes, mas não porque as intenções dos colonizadores eram outras. Eles queriam extrair o máximo possível, porém as tentativas de usar nativos não vingou e a única colônia de sucesso foi feita por colonizadores que foram para trabalhar. Essa forma de colônia permitiu a distribuição do poder a um número maior de pessoas, que levou a instituições mais inclusivas e à prosperidade.
Os exemplos para comprovar a teses são vários e os autores relatam de forma bem detalhada. Um ponto que me pareceu pouco explorado foi a influência externa de impérios e potências no mundo atual, que pode dificultar o desenvolvimento de países mais atrasados. A questão geográfica também é descrita como irrelevante, porém o livro "Guns, Germs and Steel" do Jared Diamond me convenceu de que o início da agricultura e do desenvolvimento de civilizações teve um influencia bem grande de questões geográficas, como existência de espécies nativas cultiváveis, animais potencialmente domesticáveis e ausência de limites geográfico para expansão de aldeias, como montanhas e oceanos. Na minha opinião esses dois livros se completam e são imperdíveis.
The thesis of the book is that nations that fail have extractive economies and/or extractive politics - essentially these are institutions that exist to line their own pockets or those of their cronies. Using historical and recent examples it shows how countries and areas of countries that are extractive are poorer than those where the institutions are run for the good of the people. Extractivism destroys incentives as your success only results in more being stolen from you and blocks innovation in case it should take power away from those who are currently benefiting.
The idea of success being geographical is debunked using examples like Nogales (a city spanning the US/Mexican border), Botswana (successful whist the countries around it are not) and others. Attitude of the people ideas, for example that people from Southern Europe are inherently more lazy than those from the North are also refuted with example,s as are ideas that success is culturally based.
The reasons the industrial revolution started in Britain are traced back via the Glorious Revolution, Black Death and Magna Carta. The contribution made in Eurpoe by the French Revolution and particularly by Napoleon destroying the extractive system in the countries he invaded is also shown to contribute to the success of many current nations. The authors are very clear that very minor differences in situation can end up having massive consequences so that, for example, when the Spanish colonized South America the large indigenous population allowed them to develop a slave based extractive economy whereas the British planned the same but could not do it in what became the USA due to the very low indigenous population density and therefore had to give rights to the workers to give them incentives to produce. Today we can see the result of these approaches in the relative success of the nations.
Of the current failed nations many are shown to be long term effects of colonization by the Spanish (South America), British (Africa) and Dutch (Asia) who put in place extractive institutions which by the "Iron law of the oligarch" are almost impossible to remove and have simply been taken over by new generations of rulers so they remain extractive. Countries who are successful can fail if they revert to being extractive so, for example, the Mayans were a very rich people but South America is now generally poor.
The apparent success of some extractive states, for example Communist China and Communist Russia, is explained as simply the result of better deployment of labor from agriculture to low efficiency manufacturing and that in the long run it will run out of steam as it did in Russia causing it to collapse and as it is possibly starting to do in China. An example of the conversion from extractive to an inclusive state is given as Brazil due to Lula and his workers party but now we know that actually his party was taking money out of, for example, Petrobras so it remains to be seen if the country will fall back to being an extractive failure or will surge forward into being a successful inclusive state.
Finally, the authors suggest that aid is never going to do much for failed nations unless they can be made to reform from extractive to inclusive and if we really want to help the aid should be targeted on things that will help this.
Says geography, climate, etc are not to blame, but a country's institutions. Meaning basically countries fail because they can't sort themselves out? Unfair, too simple, too smug, and not properly explained. Tries to apply this one-size fits all theory to all world history that I disagree is 'useful and empirically well-grounded.' And too many quick wins. For a nation to succeed, it should NOT let one family run everything, DO invest in technology and infrastructure, and DON'T undermine democratic institutions... we need two professors and a 550 page book to tell us this?
Analysis is far too basic - states thrive because countries institutions are 'inclusive' (=good) and others are 'extractive' (=bad). That's it! A massive oversimplification, and seems to think a country's institutions are wholly one or the other - has he been to modern Britain? And saying some countries have good institutions or bad institutions is like saying some teams are better than others because they score more goals... OBVIOUSLY, but that's not an explanation or analysis, tell us more about WHY (apart from just 'contingency' meaning random chance!)
As a high school history teacher I would want deeper analysis from this from a student. Too long but also not enough. More analysis please and less padding!
You can do better than this.