Season 1 | Episode 23

Why Nations Fail – James Robinson

Published on: 09/16/2022

This episode explains why gut-wrenching poverty exists, which leaves 1.29 billion people in the developing world struggling to live on less than $1.25 a day. And in what could be a depressing subject, Professor James Robinson, gives a very hopeful, ambitious prognosis on how the US is leading the world moving forward the human condition. The interview is based on the two internationally acclaimed, masterpiece books, “Why Nations Fail” and “The Narrow Corridor,” written by him and MIT Professor, Daron Acemoglu, both widely respected development scholars. The books start with how, even in today’s economic climate, the average American is seven times as prosperous as the average Mexican, 10 times as prosperous as the average Peruvian, about 20 times as prosperous as the average inhabitant of sub-Saharan Africa and about 40 times as prosperous as the average citizen of such particularly desperate African countries as Mali, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. What explains such wild disparities? The books take you on a journey, with nations today, and throughout history, showing not only why Nations Fail, but why they prosper. A journey based on facts and data. The interview gives a wonderful recap of the basic conditions for why we are so successful and what we need to do to stay successful. Professor Robinson argues that when you combine rotten regimes, exploitative elites, “vampire capitalists” and self-serving institutions with frail, decentralized states, you have something close to a prescription for poverty, conflict and even outright failure. “Nations fail,” the authors write, “when they have extractive economic institutions, supported by extractive political institutions that impede and even block economic growth.” This hopeful interview, by experts who have studied most major economies on the planet, and a number that are long gone, give Americans reasons to be grateful, and other nations the information regarding the stuff that can make them prosperous.

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