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Why Nations Fail

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Submitted By shehrbano
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A Review of Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail by Michele Boldrin, David K. Levine and Salvatore Modica Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail [2012] is a grand history in the style of Diamond [1997] or McNeil [1963]. Like those books, this book is exceptionally fun to read and full of interesting historical examples and provocative ideas. The basic theme of the book is that what matters most in why some nations fail – and others succeed, for the book is as much about success as failure – are not – as earlier authors have argued - economic policies, geography, culture, or value systems – but rather institutions, more precisely the political institutions that determine economic institutions. Acemoglu and Robinson theorize that political institutions can be divided into two kinds - “extractive” institutions in which a “small” group of individuals do their best to exploit - in the sense of Marx - the rest of the population, and “inclusive” institutions in which “many” people are included in the process of governing hence the exploitation process is either attenuated or absent. Needless to say Acemoglu and Robinson’s theory is more subtle than this simple summary. They argue that for any economic success political institutions must be sufficiently centralized to provide basic public services including justice, the enforcement of contracts, and education. Given that these functions are carried out, inclusive institutions enable innovative energies to emerge and lead to continuing growth as exemplified by the Industrial Revolution. Extractive institutions can also deliver growth but only when the economy is distant from the technological frontier. These extractive institutions will ultimately fail, however, when innovations and “creative destruction” are needed to push the frontier. Hence, while success may be possible for a while under extractive institutions…...

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