The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation and Social Rigidities Hardcover – 1 Jul 1982
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"[T]his elegant, readable book . . . sets out to explain why economies succumb to the 'British disease, ' the kind of stagnation and demoralization that is now sweeping Europe and North America. . . . A convincing book that could make a big difference in the way we think about modern economic problems."--Peter Passell, The New York Times Book Review
"Clearly, this is no ordinary theory. Equally clearly, it sprang from the mind of no ordinary economist."--James Lardner, The Washington Post
"[Olson's] seminal work The Rise and Decline of Nations, published in 1982, helped explain how stable, affluent societies tend to get in trouble. The book turns out to be a surprisingly useful guide to the current crisis. . . . Olson's book was short but sprawling, touching on everything from the Great Depression to the caste system in India. His primary case study was Great Britain in the decades after World War II. . . . Olson's insight was that the defeated countries of World War II didn't rise in spite of crisis. They rose because of it."--David Leonhardt, New York Times
"One of the really important books in social science of the past half-century."--Scott Gordon, The Canadian Journal of Economics
"The thesis of this brilliant book is that the longer a society enjoys political stability, the more likely it is to develop powerful special-interest lobbies that in turn make is less efficient economically."--Charles Peters, The Washington Monthly
"Remarkable. The fundamental ideas are simple, yet they provide insight into a wide array of social and historical issues. . . . The Rise and Decline of Nations promises to be a subject of productive interdisciplinary argument for years to come."--Robert O. Keohane, Journal of Economic Literature
"I urgently recommend it to all economists and to a great many non-economists."--Gordon Tullock, Public Choice
"Olson's theory is illuminating and there is no doubt that The Rise and Decline of Nations will exert much influence on ideas and politics for many decades to come."--Pierre Lemieux, Reason
"Olson has already provoked a small tempest with this book, making it must reading for all serious students of political economy, sociology, and organization theory."--Orbis
"This is a useful, insightful, and easily readable book. . . . Provocative and compelling."--The Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science
"Mancur Olson has laid an important new idea on the table of the profession. I am attracted by the idea, and I think that other readers will be too."--Robert D. Tollison, The Southern Economic Journal
"An extraordinary achievement. While we still don't know what accounts for secular economic and social change, Mancur Olson has made a solid contribution toward our understanding of those issues."--Douglass C. North, Science
"History will tell us whether Olson has built a cathedral of ideas or a shack in the intellectual winds, but either way he provides an interesting starting point for our speculations. One doesn't need a cathedral to get religion."--Lester C. Thurow, The New York Review of Books
"There is both a challenge and a stimulant in this ambitious theory, which is not frightened of ranging widely and drawing conclusions about great matters."--James Douglas, Political Science Quarterly
"Olson's vivid descriptions, extensive data, and interpretations of the social and economic difficulties are persuasive and eloquent. He has a remarkable talent for combining sobriety of thought with formal but graceful prose. . . . Political scientists are indebted to Olson for this stimulating and ambitious effort to write a theory of political economy. In his sometimes quaint and subtle manner, he has managed once more to address the big issues and make sense of them in nontechnical language both respectable among his peers and accessible to noneconomists."--William C. Mitchell, The American Political Science Review
"Schumpeter and Keynes would have hailed the insights Olson gives into the sicknesses of the modern mixed economy."--Paul A. Samuelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"Rises above the descriptive level of most books and directs our attention to the theoretical concerns in a way which gives the work a broader scope and the richness we have come to associate with the classic texts."--Kristen Monroe, Princeton University, New York University, from citation for Kammerer prize
"A prize-winning performance: Olson's social theory of economic growth and decay is far superior to existing alternatives."--Aaron Wildavsky
"Olson has taken the implications of his earlier work, The Logic of Collective Action and used them in an extraordinarily innovative and impressive way. The result, quite apart from the specific predictions about when nations decline, is an important contribution to institutional economics--or equivalently, to the sociology of institutions. What makes the contribution especially important is its derivation from microeconomic foundations. The latter constitutes the most promising theoretical paradigm in the social sciences, yet little progress has been made in moving from micro to macro level. Olson's book constitutes a valuable step in that direction."--James S. Coleman
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Paperback.
From the Back Cover
The years since World War II have seen rapid shifts in the relative positions of different countries and regions. Leading political economist Mancur Olson offers a new and compelling theory to explain these shifts in fortune and then tests his theory against evidence from many periods of history and many parts on the world. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Paperback.
Top customer reviews
He probably wouldn't have liked to hear it but his ideas have a nice Taoist flavour. As a society becomes more successful, advanced and stable it's institutions become more complex and invariably start to turn the favourable stability into undesirable rigidity. Legislation starts to mushroom along with the people who create and administer it and somehow the society finds that the achievements of it's youth are no longer possible.
He identifies various strands in this process of sclerosis, the main one here being the activity of special interest groups. As he puts it; "the larger the number of individuals or firms that would benefit from a collective good, the smaller the share of the gains from action in the group interest that will accrue to the individual or firm that undertakes the action. Thus, in the absence of selective incentives, the incentive for group action diminishes as group size increases, so that large groups are less able to act in their common interest than small ones."
In normal language, this means that somebody lobbying government for the general good is not going to get as much as somebody lobbying for a small group. A fine example of this would be the farmers in the European Common Agricultural Policy. They gain a great deal in subsidies and controlled prices, managing to spread the cost over a large number of taxpayers and consumers. No individual shopper knows how much extra they are paying for their butter etc., it's not going to be very much anyway and they're not going to hire a lawyer to fight about it.
However, keep this process going on long enough and apply it to enough goods and services and you find a magical growth in prices / regulation / administration / number of lawyers and government share of G.D.P.
In a sense this is the old pre-civilisation tribalism in modern guise. "If you have the power use it. " The common-good on this reading has a very local definition and is blind to the good of the society as a whole.
This seems to be a cultural problem and Olson sheds light on the uncomfortable dual nature of economic liberalism. On the one hand competition is good because it promotes efficiency/ choice and lowers prices but on the other it is an anti-society instinct that easily slides out of control.
The book is heavy going since it has to try to be acceptable to the economic "science" theologians. Unfortunately for Olson it is still heretical to suggest that sociological observation or any of the useful established work in psychology has any relevance to economics.
In fact the economics profession itself seems to have undergone the very process that Olson describes as the open flexible texts of Adam Smith have turned into a rigid mass of irrelevant mathematics.
In the "Rise and Decline of Nations" Mancur Olson revealed the teacher in himself with a lucid readable account that left the mathematics in the footnotes. It was one of those books that Samuel Britten would give to his bright nephew who wants to know what it is all about without doing the difficult math.
His thesis can be simply expressed as follows: societies that are governed by an encompassing interest will function better than societies that are governed by exclusive interests, whether these be tyrants, kings, oligarchs or representative democratic institutions corrupted by narrow interests. It is the inexorable development of the influence of powerful but minority groups that threatens to bring down the efficiency of governments in countries that have been stable for a long time. There is much to say for this interpretation of the evidence. But Olson says more than this. Why, he asks, does this occur?
Why does a successful and vital democratic system become hollowed out from inside? Olson points to the tragedy of the commons. Reviewers on Amazon seem to have missed this central point. Olson shows with rigorous logic why this occurs, and why it is inevitable. An average voter generally feels that his voice is tiny in the sea of a wider electorate. He instinctively knows that a large personal investment in becoming aware of the details of the political and economic life of his country yields a poor individual return, and so he lets someone else do it, or trusts that the politicians will not mess it up too badly. This is a limitation on the ability of the mass to govern itself in addition to the inability of that segment of the electorate that do not have enough schooling to grasp the salient issues. Unless someone is a political pundit, paid for expressing informed political opinion, he will go with the flow or vote according to superficial impressions and imperfect heuristics.
On the other hand, the logic is quite different when the individuals are lobbying for a minority interest that may return direct minority benefits. The commons is smaller. The Coaseian bargain easier to put together. There is a structural bias for those who wish to corrupt the system in the favour of narrow interests to want to invest more effort to do so. That bias easily outweighs any inclination for average citizens to prevent it from happening. And so, in the long term, the governments of stable nations become progressively more corrupt and less representative.
Mancur Olson did not live to see how vividly his theory would be confirmed under the presidency of Bush, junior. It is we who can see this as one more piece of empirical evidence that Olson's theory is correct.
Olson's theory predicts that this will get worse, not better. On the other hand, it is also Olson's prediction that when a very serious crisis takes place, many of the corrupting forces clustered about the centre of power can be flushed away. It is precisely this process in the form of Mao's Cultural Revolution that wiped out the middle cadre of the Communist Party in China, that paved the way for the Chinese miracle taking place today.
We might ask, if we follow Olson's logic, whether the coming economic crash that the current Republican administration of the USA is engineering will be severe enough to bring about a thorough going clean out and an American revival? (And let's face it; Bush's economic policies are incompetent to the point of ruinous. His military and political ones too.) Or will the USA continue throughout the coming 50 years to sink inexorably into a quagmire of economic and political rigidities, to become a has-been nation as the UK did in the last century? Olson seems to predict the latter.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
Mancur Olson starts with a three chapter summary of his "Logic of Collective Action," where he explained how stability breeds special interest groups...Read more
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Business, Finance & Law > Biographies & Histories
- Books > Business, Finance & Law > Economics > Economic Policy & Development
- Books > Business, Finance & Law > Economics > International Economics > Development
- Books > Business, Finance & Law > Economics > Political Economy
- Books > Business, Finance & Law > Economics > Theory & Philosophy
- Books > Business, Finance & Law > Professional Finance
- Books > History > Asia > India