From the authors of the international bestseller Why Nations Fail comes a big-picture framework that answers the question of how liberty flourishes in some states but falls to authoritarianism or anarchy in others--and explains how it can continue to thrive despite new threats.
In their latest book...Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson hark back to an earlier tradition of postwar social science, asking a fundamental question: What explains the rise and fall of democracy and dictatorship? In so doing, they offer a provocative framework for analyzing our current moment of democratic crisis ... This framework offers a powerful starting point for understanding the many perils facing aspirations for democracy and liberty today. First, it helpfully recalibrates our American tendency to collapse debates over freedom into a binary clash between the narrow liberty of 'free markets' on the one hand, and the economic and political freedoms provided by social-democratic 'big government' on the other ... While wide-ranging and provocative, this approach does have its limits. Polities do not oscillate between democracy and authoritarianism as monolithic states of being ... While Acemoglu and Robinson do not offer a playbook for today’s reformers, their book raises important questions that we will all have to grapple with.
... a work of staggering ambition ... offers a stinging critique of Trumpism and capitalism as practiced in America today ... even-handed enough that those from every point on the political spectrum will be able to cite scripture to their particular purpose. The problem, though, is it's a hard slog, even for someone who's interested in the subject and loved their last book Why Nations Fail ... The great strength and ultimately the great weakness of this book are its piece parts. It is chock full of delightful detours and brilliant nuggets ... The best part is that the authors make their argument by citing the world's first economist, Ibn Khaldun from Tunis, famous today for having invented what we know as the Laffer Curve. It's this sort of breathtaking erudition, linking ideas and events across geographies and time periods, that makes this book special ... I found myself flipping forwards and backwards—backwards to go back to something that was said earlier, and forwards to see how many pages were left. Many of the arguments are nuanced. It takes reading and rereading to fully understand what the authors are saying. And they don't make it easier by using a vocabulary borrowed from Thomas Hobbes and embellished with their own euphemisms ... Using a vocabulary we're already familiar with would have made this book a bit easier to digest ... Perhaps it's harsh to criticize this book for failing to live up to the absurdly high standard it set for itself, and instead we should appreciate it for what it is: smart and timely book on an important topic.
Crucially and rightly, the book does not see freedom as merely the absence of state oppression ... This book is more original and exciting than its predecessor. It has gone beyond the focus on institutions to one on how a state really works.