PLEDGE NOW
Why Nations Fail

A new argument that a country’s ultimate success, or failure, is tied to how the average person does. Doesn’t matter if it’s ancient Rome, Venice, China, or the U.S.A.

The Colosseum. (Sebastian Bergmann/Flickr)

The Colosseum. (Sebastian Bergmann/Flickr)

Why do nations rise, and why do they fall?  For centuries, explanations have rained down on us.  It’s geography.  It’s culture.  It’s climate.  Free markets.  Colonization.  Military might.

A whopping new study of the ultimate question says it comes down to this:  Whether it’s ancient Rome or Venice or China or the United States of America right now, the wealth of a nation is tied most closely to how much the average person shares in the overall growth of the economy.  That it really is about the ninety-nine percent.

This hour, On Point:  the hottest economist on the planet on why nations fail.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Daron Acemoglu, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he’s the author of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. He blogs at www.whynationsfail.com

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Over the centuries, proposed answers have varied greatly. Smith declared that the difference between wealth and poverty resulted from the relative freedom of the markets; Thomas Malthus said poverty comes from overpopulation; and John Maynard Keynes claimed it was a byproduct of a lack of technocrats. (Of course, everyone knows that politicians love listening to wonky bureaucrats!) Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world’s most famous economists, asserts that poor soil, lack of navigable rivers and tropical diseases are, in part, to blame. ”

The Wall Street Journal “Why is Mexico poorer than the United States? In “Why Nations Fail,” Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson blame the encomienda. After the defeat of the Aztec empire in 1521, the Spanish imposed the system as a means of extracting tribute from the local population. Each encomendero would be allocated a number of Native Americans, who would then be used essentially as slave labor.”

The Boston Globe “The place was Venice, and if it is hard to imagine the charming tourist destination was once one of the richest places on the Earth, then that is precisely what MIT economist Daron Acemoglu wants me to understand. I had come to the Sloan School of Management cafeteria, its tall windows framing the Charles River, for coffee and a discussion of his favorite topic – why nations fail.”

Video: Lecture On Why Nations Fail

Here is a lecture that Acemoglu gave in November 2011 at the University of Scranton, discussing why nations fail.

Excerpt: Why Nations Fail

[Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.]

Playlist

“Red, White & Pink Slip Blues” by Hank Williams, Jr.
Live Performance at a Tea Party Rally (2010)

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Feb 10, 2016
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., waves to the crowd before speaking during a primary night watch party at Concord High School, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The winners and losers in New Hampshire, and the path ahead in the presidential primary race.

Feb 10, 2016
In this Feb. 1, 2016 photo, a technician from the British biotec company Oxitec, inspects the pupae of genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a vector for transmitting the Zika virus, in Campinas, Brazil. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Taking on the Zika virus, from tackling the disease itself, to killing the mosquitoes that carry it to the challenge of birth control.

RECENT
SHOWS
Feb 9, 2016
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at a Rotary Club luncheon in Manchester, N.H., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

From New Hampshire, a deep dive, from Trump to Sanders, on how the candidates would approach the U.S. economy.

 
Feb 9, 2016
Host Tom Ashbrook and producer Sarah Platt speak to supporters of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) outside the candidate's Manchester, N.H. campaign headquarters on Monday, February 8, 2016. (Katherine Brewer / WBUR)

We’re live in New Hampshire for the first in the nation primary day, with all the latest on how the big vote is shaping up.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Tom’s Note From New Hampshire
Tuesday, Feb 9, 2016

Fresh off the New Hampshire Presidential Primary results, host Tom Ashbrook reflects on his trip to New Hampshire, and on what comes next in the race to the White House.

More »
Comment
 
Notes From New Hampshire, #6: Bernie v. Hillary — The Electability Debate
Monday, Feb 8, 2016

Bill and Betty are not real New Hampshire voters. But their arguments about the Democratic race for President most certainly are.

More »
Comment
 
Notes From New Hampshire, #5: Ted Cruz — The Advocate
Monday, Feb 8, 2016

Texas Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is an impassioned advocate, Jack Beatty writes — but mostly for himself above all others.

More »
Comment