Tuesday, March 26, 2013

MacLeod on Acemoglu and Robinson's "Why Nation's Fail"

Writing in the new issue of the Journal of Economic Literature (here), economist W. Bentley MacLeod of Columbia University pulls off a feat I would have thought impossible: in an otherwise fine review essay on Why Nations Fail (2012) by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (as well as another book I have not yet had the pleasure of reading), MacLeod manages to avoid citing anything written by Doug North (Nobel Memorial Prize, 1993) over the past 40 years. Perhaps that is the only way of reaching the conclusion that Acemoglu and Robinson have advanced truly novel arguments.

As I have written earlier on this blog (see here and here), aside from their extreme institutional determinism, the authors of Why Nations Fail do not seem to me to make any arguments that North was not advancing 20-30 years ago in books such as Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance (1990) and Structure and Change in Economic History (1982). For the most part, they just extended North's arguments with additional case studies and a more extreme conclusion denying any role to geography or environmental conditions in determining economic performance.

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