Public Service: Why Nations Fail Crib Notes

By James Kwak

I’m reviewing Why Nations Fail for a print publication, so I’m out of basic courtesy I’m not going to preempt my review here. But if you’re like me and not an expert in the history of every part of the world, sometime around page 250 you probably got confused about where Acemoglu and Robinson discussed the Kingdom of Aksum as opposed to early modern Ethiopia or the Kuba Kingdom as opposed to the Kingdom of Kongo. After a while I created my own crib sheet, which I reproduce here for those who may find it helpful.

1. So Close and Yet So Different: Spanish Conquest, Jamestown, Mexico (19th century)

2. Theories That Don’t Work

3. The Making of Prosperity and Poverty: Korea, Kingdom of Kongo

4. Small Differences and Critical Junctures: The Weight of History: Black Death (14th century), early modern Western Europe

5. “I’ve Seen the Future and It Works”: Growth Under Extractive Institutions: USSR, Kuba Kingdom, Neolithic Revolution, Mayas

6. Drifting Apart: Venice, ancient Rome, Kingdom of Aksum (Ethiopia)

7. The Turning Point: England (17th-18th centuries)

8. Not on Our Turf: Barriers to Development: Spain, Austria-Hungary and Russia, China, Ethiopia, Somalia

9. Reversing Development: Dutch East Indies, Central Africa

10. The Diffusion of Prosperity: Australia, French Revolution, Japan

11. The Virtuous Circle: Great Britain, United States (Progressive movement and 1930s), Argentina

12. The Vicious Circle: Sierra Leone, Guatemala, American South, Ethiopia

13. Why Nations Fail Today: Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Clombia, Argentina, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Egypt

14. Breaking the Mold: Botswana, American South, China

15. Understanding Prosperity and Poverty: China, Brazil

7 thoughts on “Public Service: Why Nations Fail Crib Notes

  1. Mr. Kwak,
    I have noticed in the past academics have a common practice of writing a very academic book, only to come out with a semi-watered down version later for mass-consumption with the goal of bestsellers list and more name recognition. One gets the feeling it’s like “Hey Mr, Joe Six-Pack, we wrote this for you, should I speak mooorrrre slllllloooowwwwllllyyyy?? Here is ‘Comparative Economics for Idiots” just for YOU!!! Now be awed and impressed at replicated data from a prior work”

    I have been a casual follower of Acemoglu’s work since reading about him in the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Publication and seeing he was J.e.w.ish and winner of Clark Bates medal, assumed he was of high intelligence i.e. a sharpie. I have already purchased his “Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy” and am hesitant to buy “Why Nations Fail” as I assume that a great deal of data and conclusions are replicated in the latter book. Am I right in this assumption?? I’m not trying to be smart-aleck, it’s an earnest question I’d like to know.

  2. Mr. Herzog’s comment is racist in how he characterizes Acemoglu and that undermines the valid (to me) point he made about how academics publish books to appeal to the casual reader so as to make money

  3. So, Argentina with decreasing gini coefficient and with continuous GDP growth is a today failure?
    Or today=2001?
    If today=2012, I would like to know how you define failure….

  4. if the pols from Evita Peron through Menem through Cristina Fernandez put the product of their corruption in Swiss bank accounts it will not show up in the GINI coefficient. Growth is relative. Argentina was once a country with potential ahead of France. Today it is a dump
    because demagogues, militarists, protectionists, autarkists, and voodoo economists got control of the place and have kept it for too long. as for Argentine statistics, the national accounts are fiddled to hide the rate of inflation so why not fiddle GDP growth too?

    vivian lewis, ed.

  5. Argentina got in trouble when it followed the recomendations of IMF (1992-2001) as well as with military coups (1955-1973 and 1976-1983). When we decided to go through our own decisions (and thank god US looked tothe other way) we did much better.
    You seem to not believe in neither the GINI coefficient nor in the GDP and you take for granted much dubious affirmations like saying that we have demagogues, militarists (!!!!), protectioninsts (well, we still have a too open economy) and vodoo economists (well, they seem to be doing much better than the very serious people in EU) I do not think that we will find a common ground for civilized discussion.
    In any case, what I was curious of why Argentina is listed as a “failed country”.

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