Include a summary of one of the theories from “What Makes Countries Rich or Poor?” by Jared Diamond. Include a synthesis of multiple perspectives from the article with a conclusion on the...

Include a summary of one of the theories from “What Makes Countries Rich or Poor?” by Jared Diamond. Include a synthesis of multiple perspectives from the article with a conclusion on the subject.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The article that you mention is Jared Diamond’s review of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.  In this review, Diamond lays out Acemoglu and Robinson’s main argument and explains why he thinks it is insufficient.

In this book, the authors argue that rich and poor countries got that way because of their economic institutions.  The rules and systems that countries set up give their people different incentives.  Rich countries, they say, have rules that do things like protect private property, enforce contracts, and allow people to have opportunities to invest the money that they earn.  When countries have rules like these, people are motivated to work hard and make money.  This allows their country to become richer.

Diamond agrees that these institutions matter, but he takes things farther than that.  First, he asks why some countries are more likely to have good rules and good institutions.  Not surprisingly, Diamond takes this back to the onset of farming.  He says that countries that have farmed for a longer period are more likely to have had a centralized government for a long time.  Countries that have had central governments for a long time are more likely to have good institutions.

There are two other factors that Diamond mentions in connection with institutions.  He says that countries that have many natural resources tend to have poorer institutions because their leaders can get rich by stealing the wealth produced by the natural resources.  He also says that countries that were colonized became poor if they were originally rich.  Small colonial elites came to these countries and exploited large native populations for their own gain.  They created institutions that were meant to help elite rulers take the wealth from the poor masses.

Diamond also argues, however, that there is one other main factor that determines whether a country is rich or poor and that has nothing to do with economic institutions.  That factor is geography.  Diamond says that countries in the tropics are at a disadvantage.  This disadvantage comes about because the tropics are A) less healthy for people and B) less well-suited to agriculture.

In this article, then, Diamond agrees with Acemoglu and Robinson to an extent, but argues that they do not take enough factors into account when trying to explain why some countries are rich and others are not.

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