90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
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
Mar 27, 2015
Rescue workers work on debris of the Germanwings jet at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Thursday, March 26, 2015. The co-pilot of the Germanwings jet barricaded himself in the cockpit and “intentionally” rammed the plane full speed into the French Alps, ignoring the captain’s frantic pounding on the cockpit door and the screams of terror from passengers, a prosecutor said Thursday. (AP)

The co-pilot and the plane in the Alps? Ted Cruz announces 2016 bid. Heinz buys Kraft. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Mar 27, 2015
Members of  a November Project 'tribe' pause during a November 2014 workout. (Brogan Graham / Instagram)

Spring training. From easy-access yoga to outdoor exercise meet-ups, exercise plans you’ll want to do.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 26, 2015
A child walks through a forest landscape. (Rudolf Vlček / Flickr)

American kids today spend only four to seven minutes a day playing outdoors. We hear a new call to raise the “wild child.”

 
Mar 26, 2015
In this file photo, protesters sit at the intersection of Wall St. and Broad St. in New York, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. The protesters, many who were affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, were trying to draw attention to the connection between capitalism and environmental destruction. (AP)

In our age of hyper-inequality, historian Steve Fraser asks when the little guy stands up and says “enough.” He’s with us.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Mobile Payments Offer Convenience If You Keep Your Email Safe
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Thinking about moving your wallet to your phone? You can! And maybe you should? But TechCrunch senior writer Josh Constine has a few things to tell you before you do.

More »
1 Comment
 
Using Technology To Get Your Kids Outside
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

The latest and greatest — using apps to make natural exploration more fun for your kids.

More »
Comment
 
Week In The Web: March 20, 2015
Friday, Mar 20, 2015

The emailed comments question continues to haunt us, we shake off / salute our haters and CNN Politics spends way too much time on FinalCut (in a good way!).

More »
Comment