Instaread Summary of Why Nations Fail The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
Five out of five stars
From this summary, it is clear that the authors of the book make some significant points, but that those points suffer from some unconsidered limits. This is clear from the first of the key takeaways:
“Differences in development are not explained by geography or culture.”
This would have been far more accurate had the word “only” been inserted after “explained.” The authors argue that it is the lack of more egalitarian social and political institutions that keep nations from developing. Yet, it is clear through history that the presence of local resources is a significant contributor to economic success. Being conquered by a superior power also should be included.
Their point is further driven home in key takeaway two:
“Differences in development are the result of differences in political institutions. Pluralist institutions encourage development.”
Once again, the point would be better stated if an additional word appeared in the sentence. In this case, it would be inserting “Many” at the start. The inarguable example of the differences between North and South Korea is used, but that does not change the fact that the development of nations is far more complex than the arguments put forward by Acemoglu and Robinson.
A very disingenuous point is made in the explanation of key takeaway seven. The main point is:
“Growth under authoritarian regimes, such as China’s, cannot be successful over the long term.”
The following appears in the explanation:
“As of 2016, China’s economic growth did, in fact, appear to be weakening. The growth rate in 2015 was 6.9 percent, the lowest in China in 25 years.”
What is disingenuous about this sentence is that this level of growth dwarfs that of nearly all other countries. It was recently announced that the growth rate in the United States for 2016 is running at roughly 1.4%. The rate in the E. U. is roughly equal at 1.8%. These other countries would be ecstatic for a growth rate even half that of China’s.
From this summary, it is clear that Acemoglu and Robinson make valid, but biased and incomplete points regarding the reasons for the wide differences in the development of nations. Reading the summary generates a desire in the reader interested in the topic to read the book, if for no other reason to better critique their omissions.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.