Robinson from the University of Chicago. The book applies insights from institutional economics , development economics and economic history to understand why nations develop differently, with some succeeding in the accumulation of power and prosperity and others failing, via a wide range of historical case studies. The authors also maintain a website with a blog inactive since about the ongoing discussion of the book. In fifteen chapters, Acemoglu and Robinson try to examine which factors are responsible for the political and economic success or failure of states. They argue that the existing explanations about the emergence of prosperity and poverty, e.
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The concept of consensually strong states discussed in our last post suggests one possible answer. Instead, it appears that though the state is often an instrument of repression and extraction in the hands of economic or political elites, there are at times important benefits from state centralization as we have also argued in Why Nations Fail , and the state can even be a useful instrument for the disadvantaged in their struggles against the local elites.
We are not aware of any comprehensive approach that models or successfully integrates these different ideas. It is meant to stand apart from strong states that are useful because they can provide socially useful public goods and from weak states cannot or will not provide such public goods.
But strong states are also difficult to control for the citizens, so they will often turn their strength against the citizens, for example, expropriating them.
The observation this paper makes is that if we were trying to interpret the cross-country variation in the political and economic strength of the state, taxes and spending using such a dichotomy between weak and strong states, much of the OECD and certainly Scandinavia would just appear as massive outliers.
Moreover, this economic strength is not imposed on the citizens against their will, but largely demanded by the citizens. So how to interpret this? The interpretation that the paper offers is based on the concept of consensually strong states. This is where the political weakness of the state is key. Putting it formally, what the paper describes is a subgame perfect equilibrium of a repeated game, in which citizens are willing to allow high taxes because they have the punishment strategy of kicking the incumbent politician out of power if he or she uses the resulting tax revenues for rents or projects that they do not value.
Crucially, it is the ability of citizens to easily kick out the politicians that makes this subgame perfect equilibrium possible. If the state were politically too strong say like an absolutist monarch , such subgame perfect equilibrium arrangement would not be possible. So according to this model, the problem of the Hobbesian state is not just that it is strong, but that it is a Leviathan emboldened by his own might, rather than empowered by the consent of society at large.
Though it is true that one can find harmonious stateless societies, the comparative ethnographic evidence also suggests two robust facts.
First, historical human societies, including stateless ones and those which lacked a modern state, were far more, not less, violent than modern societies. Hobbes was actually right when he said that the state of nature was nasty, brutish and short. This is evident from contemporary nations, such as those in Somalia or South Sudan, which were built on-top of historically stateless societies.
The modern state in Somalia collapsed 20 years ago and has never been re-constructed, and perhaps was never really constructed in the first place and the country has degenerated into continual violence. Though one hopes otherwise, it is quite likely that South Sudan is now headed in the same direction.
One should not conclude from this that the stateless society of the Sudan clans or the Nuer and Dinka in the South Sudan was peaceful until the British and Italians turned up and tried to create arbitrary nation states. They were not. In Why Nations Fail we illustrated in Chapter 8 how the stateless societies of historical Somalia were unable to generate order let alone economic development. Scott is right that in some cases the state is a great threat to welfare and he has been a vigorous and effective critic of the Hobbesian perspective on the state, so central to much thinking in social science.
Point taken. Without this there would be. Leviathan , XIII. There is written on the Turrets of the city of Luca in great characters at this day, the word LIBERTAS; yet no man can thence inferred, that a particular man has more Libertie or Immunitie from the service of the Commonwealth there, than in Constantinople. So freedom was the same in republican Italy as in the despotic Ottoman Empire. Getting a state up and running was the main thing.
If anything, Hobbes, having been the tutor to the young exiled Charles II, favored monarchical government. Only a state could remove the clash of interests and notions of justice and eradicate the uncertainly, arbitrariness and domination which a stateless society was prone to. As we have shown, his arguments in fact are that states typically reduce social welfare and that is why people fly from them and try to escape their power. To anyone with some knowledge of the great tragedies of the 20 th century, the claim that states formation can reduce human welfare can hardly be a controversial observation.
It was the strong states created and controlled by the Bolshevik Party in Russia, the Communist Party in China, the Nazi Party in Germany and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia that succeeded in wiping out vast numbers of people on a scale of killing never seen before in human history.
At the same time it is also obviously not true that states necessarily do this. The powerful state that England built after the Glorious Revolution of did not systematically harass or murder its citizens and neither did the central state that was constructed in the United States after the ratification of the Constitution. The obvious point is that it matters how and by who the state is governed. Scott recognizes in Seeing Like a State that the governance of the state, who controls it and in whose interests, is critical in the sense that authoritarianism is necessary to create a really big disaster, but this receives scant attention in The Art of Not Being Governed.
This example vividly shows how once a state governed by law, even if mostly in the breech, can radically change the calculus of citizens. The same is true of our example from Western Colombia. Afro-Colombians communities were able to use the state to get control over their land and Law 70 of turned out in the past 20 years to be a key tool to fight against local elites trying to expropriate lands.
Powerful centralized states can therefore be a blessing as well as a curse, it all depends on how they are governed and by whom and under what terms. In our last post , we discussed how Afro-Colombian communities managed to get collective title to their lands. We proposed one hypothesis for why they demanded these titles in collective form, namely that it was a response to the incapacity of the Colombian state to deliver anything else.
The people were replaced by tropical palm, and by the palm plantations reached 35, hectares. The Inter-Ecclesial Commission of Peace and Justice reported that by , people in the area had been assassinated or were missing, 40, people were displaced from their homes; there had been 19 raids and burning of hamlets, and 15 cases of torture.
Interestingly in this case the displaced people used Law 70 as a tool to try to get their land back from the paramilitaries and the land grab as the report Elusive Justice shows many elites were heavily invested in this as well. They managed to get the land that had been stolen declared to be their communal land and this has helped them get the state to intervene to restore some if not all of it. Thus another hypothesis about the demand for communal land rights is that this form of property rights, which cannot be sold, may be a better tool for defending the communities against expropriation and elite predation.
With friends like that who needs enemies? The Blog. The Book Buy the book. Advance Praise. Table of Contents. Bibliographic Essay. The Authors Bios. Media Samples. Media Appearances. Get the book. Stay in touch. Blog Index. Taxation vs. Buy the book UK. Sep 23 Expropriation Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. Tuesday, September 23, Sep 18 Thursday, September 18, Sep 16 Tuesday, September 16, Sep 10 Without this there would be no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
For Hobbes, though the details of states mattered, having one was the main thing. He observed There is written on the Turrets of the city of Luca in great characters at this day, the word LIBERTAS; yet no man can thence inferred, that a particular man has more Libertie or Immunitie from the service of the Commonwealth there, than in Constantinople. Wednesday, September 10, Sep 04 Thursday, September 4, All rights reserved. Site by.
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty
ISBN 13: 9786079202613