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Summary of Why Nations Fail 

Short summary

Many countries with so many natural resources suffer from hardship, while countries with barely anything flourish. This has confused a lot of people who keep trying to understand why some nations fail. The answer to this phenomenon is quite simple — the economy. The economy is not solely reliant on a nation's natural wealth but also on maximizing wealth. For an economy to grow, it must have systemic policies that unite the government's works with the people’s demands. This summary gives a detailed insight into why nations fail economically and what can help developing countries become more prosperous. Daron Acemoglu is a Turkish-born Armenian-American economist. He is currently the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT. James Alan Robinson is a British economist and political scientist. He is the Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies and University Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago. “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” ~ Thomas Sowell

Key points


Early planning makes it easier for nations to succeed economically

The majority of the most prosperous and economically stable nations in the world made early decisions, especially after major occurrences. When there's an existing inclusive structure that benefits the people, it becomes easier to sustain economic growth. Nations, where individuals or corporate organizations find it difficult to loot the country’s national treasury, will find it easier to build a good economy.

A good economy requires leaders who see service as a clarion call and not an avenue to fill their pockets. On the other hand, in nations where only a few people control the nation's wealth, it becomes increasingly difficult to implement sustainable changes. Creating the right incentive for the leaders and the masses is essential to the growth of any nation. In China, convicted looters are executed according to the laws, while African countries celebrate theirs.
Creating a sustainable economy requires a nation to let go of its old strategies.
Many developing nations will remain poor due to a lack of early planning, but nations ready and determined to change for good will see positive results as long as they remain committed to the cause. The changes needed to turn the fortune of a nation around are not spontaneous. They take time, and they require continuous execution by intelligent representatives.

The growth of an economy depends on the standard of living of the people

The city of Nogales stands as the famous border between the United States and Mexico. It is cut in half by a fence that separates the two countries. To the North is Nogales, Arizona, located in Santa Cruz County, and the average household income there is around $30,000 a year. The education level is high, and the population is relatively healthy, with high life expectancy by global standards. Basic amenities such as electricity, telephones, a sewage system, public health, a road network linking them to other cities, and law and order exist. Democracy is also encouraged and practiced. The residents of Nogales, Arizona, can vote to replace their mayor, Congress members, and senators; they vote in the presidential elections that determine who will lead their country.
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Progressive nations are controlled by selfless individuals who operate within a structured system


We should understand and acknowledge the role of history in shaping our political knowledge


Education for the people is crucial for innovation in advanced technological worlds


Every nation needs to be inclusive of all its citizens for economic growth to happen


A major cause of the slow progress in African countries is their history of slavery and colonialism


Selfish leadership leads to a vicious cycle that keeps the people oppressed for political reasons


Compared to democratically-inclusive governments, authoritarian governments mostly fail to grow their economy



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