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Theoretical understanding of the background for emanzipation: Why Nations Fail by James Robinson?

April 21, 2013

Modern economic growth rests on innovation; that is widely accepted. But innovation is usually seen as proportional to effort, investment, and levels of accumulated knowledge technological prowess. These are positive forces; but innovation also requires overcoming the negative forces of established authority, intellectual ‘sunk costs,’ and the vested interests who benefit from maintaining status quo beliefs. Only Western civilization was successful in overcoming these negative forces. This was not due to any exceptional flexibility or vibrancy in Western culture. Quite the reverse, it was due to the exceptional rigidity and closure of Western intellectual culture prior to 1500, and the impact of discoveries on that rigid system which broke it open and led to new world views.

Center for the Study of Economy and Society, Cornell University: http://www.economyandsociety.org/

James Robinson, Harvard University:
http://scholar.harvard.edu/jrobinson

It’s the most basic question of global economics and politics; why do some nations thrive while others fail? What does Norway have which Mali lacks? There are of course multiple answers based on physical geography, resources and cultural differences, but the renowned Harvard academic James Robinson is adamant one factor determines economic success much more than all others: the development of resilient, inclusive political institutions. Put crudely the idea is political freedom begets prosperity – but is that always true?

Credits
Interviewed Guest – James Robinson
Presenter – Stephen Sackur

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01kprq6

Why Nations Fail:
http://whynationsfail.com/

From mercantile Venice to contemporary America, economic success or failure is rooted in the health of political institutions says the co-author of a new book

Why Nations Fail

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

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty is a non-fiction book by two American economists: Daron Acemoglu, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and James Robinson (economist), a Harvard professor. In the book they try to answer the most basic question of global economics and politics: why do some nations (for example, Norway) thrive while others ( for example, Mali) fail? The book is intended for a general audience.

The volume presented a detailed argument for a proposition that a nation’s economic success is predominantly determined by its political institutions. Inclusive states have no single centre of power but are innovative and prosperous thanks to the jostling of competing interests under the rule of law and secure property rights. Inclusive democracies with strong independent judicial systems thrive. It claims that importance of politics is far ahead of geography, resources or culture, that freedom begets prosperity. Countries such as Great Britain and the United States became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society with political rights more broadly distributed and the government accountable and responsive to citizens. In these countries the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities. Conversely, nations dominated by self-centred elites fail and they are extremely poor. Extractive, totalitarian states are in a vicious circle of plutocracy, suppression of technological innovation and economic and personal freedom.

The book followed up in footsteps of books by Jared Diamond, Ian Morris, Niall Ferguson and Charles C. Mann.,[1] David Landes’s The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.[2]

James Robinson was interviewed at Hard Talk on the BBC by presenter Stephen Sackur [3][4] He has presented his book at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (The RSA).[5]

Reviews

Among those giving positive reviews for the book is Charles C. Mann, a contributing editor for Atlantic Monthly, Science, and Wired. The other reviewer: “It’s bracing, garrulous, wildly ambitious and ultimately hopeful. It may, in fact, be a bit of a masterpiece”.[6][7][8]

Critics of the book have made some of the following objections:

  • The authors didn’t present more rigorous, statistics-based evidence to support their theories.[9]
  • Jared Diamond states “In their narrow focus on inclusive institutions, however, the authors ignore or dismiss other factors. I mentioned earlier the effects of an area’s being landlocked or of environmental damage, factors that they don’t discuss. Even within the focus on institutions, the concentration specifically on inclusive institutions causes the authors to give inadequate accounts of the ways that natural resources can be a curse.” [10]
  • Jeffrey Sachs objects that other factors (such as geography) that can also affect growth are ignored. [11]

References

Why nations fail

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