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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

This is up there with Guns, Germs, and Steel as a macro theory o

This is up there with Guns, Germs, and Steel as a macro theory on why the world (and history) is as it is. The author actually rebuff's Dimond's thesis in Gun, Germs.. that geography is destiny (albeit gently). Instead, institutions matter. Countries with extractive pol...
This is up there with Guns, Germs, and Steel as a macro theory on why the world (and history) is as it is. The author actually rebuff's Dimond's thesis in Gun, Germs.. that geography is destiny (albeit gently). Instead, institutions matter. Countries with extractive political and economic systems (which most of the world have) will underperform against those with open, pluralistic systems (which only a few have). It's a great read with the authors backing up their thesis with enough examples to give it credit (and you'll have no trouble coming up with your own), but not so many as to make the book unwieldily.

posted by Rob0NY on May 29, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

Very much on target, missing only details

Obviously a pair of former leftists, these guys have got the free market message, even if clinging to their former prejudices in small ways (don't we all). Through numerous examples they focus on the vital phenomena which they've convinced me are crucial to understandin...
Obviously a pair of former leftists, these guys have got the free market message, even if clinging to their former prejudices in small ways (don't we all). Through numerous examples they focus on the vital phenomena which they've convinced me are crucial to understanding the reality here.

Other reviewers will describe their identification of institutions as key, though the authors demand that it be seen that the institutions must be understood in their respective historical terms, whether those of rich countries or poor. Their analysis of Latin America's encomienda system is fine.

But though I'm not yet finished with the book, so far they have not provided enough detail regarding how the actual institutions presently fail their citizens in particular countries. There are instead too many generalities involving "extractive economies" and "extractive political systems", to the point of almost exact repetition.

I eagerly await "Why Nations Fail, Vol. II -- The Details".

posted by eager-readerLC on May 4, 2012

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  • Posted July 4, 2012

    Thought-provoking, but flawed

    If you're interested in international relations and economics, this is a must-read, as it's definitely thought-provoking. However:

    1. It's repetitive; it repeats its theme of "extractive institutions do not lead to long-term growth" over and over, and it even summarizes what the book just stated a few pages before, over and over.

    2. It doesn't show any data to back up its arguments. Extractive systems don't produce growth over the long run? Show me tables, graphs, etc., please. Not just the conclusion that extractive systems don't produce growth over the long run.

    3. It gets its history wrong in an effort to back up its key arguments. For example, it claims that Austria-Hungary was an "absolutist" monarchy until World War I. It wasn't the most free country in the world, but by the 1900s, it was an emerging democracy, with elected legislatures, limits on the monarch's power, etc.

    Also, it states that the Civil Rights movement in the US succeeded in part because Southern "planters" were less resistant to it due to economic changes. Right...those planters (They were long gone by the 1950s).

    4. Finally, it just summarily dismisses alternative theories about economic growth. Yes, Country X was wealthier than North America in 1500- and this book shows that as a reason why geography, climate and other reasons don't really matter in economic growth. In the rudimentary economy of 1500, perhaps Country X's geography and climate weren't a problem. But just maybe in 2012, its climate and geography and other factors don't work to produce success in today's economy.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Wow, Amazing and thorough book.

    This was an interesting book with some parts that were dry and textbook like. After reading the history of the nations of the world I can't help but think that the US is in trouble. The odds are against this nation making it. There is too many destructive societies around us to keep us on the right path. The youth of the world need to read this book so they can steer their nations to stay on a prosperous path.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2013

    Insightful

    The best explanation I have seen as to why the vast sums of monies provided to the impoverished nations of the world do so little good. It is time for the U.S.A. and other donor nations to rethink the entire process of selecting the recipients of, managing, and delivering foreign aid. The observations and ideas presented in this book should enter into that process.

    The authors make their case in a thorough and methodical way, but I found the book to be a slow read. I also found it to be more than worth the effort and recommend it to those who have an interest in why nations fail.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    P A persuasive thesis

    The authors thesis, that political and economic control by elites, is well researched and persuasive. The grassroots success story of Brazil is encouraginng. I do wonder why the Chinese molde of African development is not discussed?
    Overall an excellent look at the underpinnings of prosperity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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