Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
In the book Why Nations Fail, the authors argue that economic prosperity is related to the inclusiveness of a nation’s economic and political institutions. The authors assert that those nations that have been or are today ruled by narrow elites, organized for the elites’ own benefit, have predominantly failed, while those whose governments have been accountable and responsive to its people have succeeded and their people have prospered. The book begins with an entertaining description of the sister cities of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, which have the same people, culture and geography, and asks why one is rich and one poor. They similarly examine South and North Korea, which have developed completely differently since Korea was divided in 1945. In addition to other modern examples, they also examine historic examples, including the Roman Empire, the Mayan Empire, medieval Venice, and England just before the Industrial Revolution.
There are not too many books written by MIT economists and University of Chicago political scientists that are easy to read and full of thoughtful lessons. Why Nations Fail is one.
So why is Why Nations Fail included in this bibliography? From the bailout of the big US banks that stoked the rise of the Tea Party to the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street, Americans of diametrically opposed political views have come to believe that our country’s elites have rigged government to work for their own well being, rather than for the common good. Understanding where this has lead nations throughout history can hopefully help us to reverse this trend in America and avoid other nations’ fate.