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Customer Review

14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin and unconvincing, 11 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (Hardcover)
Acemoglu and Robinson argue that economic prosperity is an entirely political phenomenon. They argue that there are two kinds of political institutions: extractive and inclusive. The former are bad, the latter are good. The authors then claim that the entire economic history of virtually everywhere can be explained by any nation state's political institutions and to what extent they are inclusive as opposed to extractive.

There are strengths to this book. The authors warnings against economic analysis qua culture are well founded. So too are their warnings against appeals to geography. Their focus on politics is welcome as one tires of economists pretending their discipline is not directly political.

However, for my own part I found their thesis rather unconvincing. The authors never provide a detailed explanation of what exactly constitutes an 'extractive' or an 'inclusive' institution. The lack of clear definitions - more than anything else - is what allows Acemoglu and Robinson to slip every political institution in economic history under two simple categories.

Also their histories are loose in parts. For example, Acemoglu and Robinson attempt to trove through Roman history explaining Rome's various rises and falls with their two simple categories. Checking their references I found the authors had virtually ignored or failed to cite or mention all the of the most significant works on Roman history. To the extent that such works were mentioned, the mentions were slim.
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Initial post: 3 Sep 2012 00:00:42 BDT
Just a fairly random note, when you say that 'Their focus on politics is welcome as one tires of economists pretending their discipline is not directly political' I think you are incorrect. Attributing the economic success and failure of nations to political factors is, in the language of economists, often a claim that the reasons for economic success and failure are exogenous and extra-economic. So such claims are frequently used to buttress the position that markets work perfectly well when institutions are all set up as they should be, that market failures and imperfections only arise because of the politics impinging on economics.
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