Why Nations Fail

by Daron Acemoğlu and James A. Robinson

Why Nations Fail CoverAfter finishing Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration, I very quickly picked up my copy of Why Nations Fail, with the earnest intention of reading it soon-after, at the express recommendation of the author of the former. (Within his book, of course; I don’t know Ferguson, personally.) And then I hesitated in actually picking up the book; it lived on my bookshelf for the better part of a year. It’s possible that I was worried that I would have a hard time understanding this topic––though that worry was definitely unfounded, as the authors explain things in a very lay-friendly manner––but, it’s more likely that I just got distracted by all the other shiny books on my shelf. I’m glad I finally got to it, however, as it was hugely interesting and very well-written overall.

Why Nations Fail is a comprehensive look at both historical and contemporary political and economic institutions, in which the authors explore factors that are argued to be necessities in bringing about sustained prosperity to nations. Not only do they state their theory in a compelling way throughout this exploration, but they present the logic in various polities suppressing such aspects of their institutions––such as inclusivity, incentives to innovation, and creative destruction––usually having to deal with self-enrichment at the cost of the wealth of greater society. The comprehensive nature of the authors’ analysis, unfortunately, does make the reading at times tedious, but I feel that it was a necessity. Since they had me convinced as to the validity of the theory early on, most of the real-world examples supporting the argument come across as almost superfluous; however, had they not swayed me early on, the large number of examples would most likely help change my mind, or at least make the book harder to refute. In the end, this is only minute criticism to a thoughtful and hugely informative read.

The fact that Why Nations Fail occasionally lost my interest diminished it a bit in my mind, but I found the topic so interesting that I most likely will revisit the book at some point. And, who knows, it may, one day, find its way into my favourites.