Sunday, April 1, 2012

Growthology: The Neutron Book?

On Friday I posted a review of Acemoglu and Robinson's new book, Why Nations Fail to the Kauffman Foundation's Growthology blog:

Growthology: The Neutron Book?: "The advertised central thesis of the book (in contrast with what I think is the core idea in the book) is introduced a bit later, on page 42, when the authors state:
Economic institutions shape economic incentives… It is the political process that determines what economic institutions people live under, and it is the political institutions that determine how this process works… As institutions influence behavior and incentives in real life, they forge the success and failure of nations.
Institutions shape behavior, so institutions matter. Politics shapes institutions, so politics matters.

From that point forward, Why Nations Fail alternates awkwardly between lively storytelling and frequently unpersuasive attempts to shoehorn narrative nuance into conformity with The Point of the Book.

... As it stands, Why Nations Fail comes close to being a neutron book. It describes wondrous worlds full of clever people after then, after the detonation of The Point of the Book, leaves only the buildings standing... The people: gone."

Bottom line: Great (narrative) content, weak (conceptual) packaging.

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