An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

Daron Acemoglu on Why Nations Fail

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Daron Acemoglu on Why Nations Fail and consider these questions.

1. The conversation begins as Roberts likens Acemoglu’s project in Why Nations Fail to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. How does Acemoglu regard his project as different from Smith’s?

2. What are the alternative hypotheses Acemoglu rejects as incorrect explanations of why nations fail?

3. What does Acemoglu mean when he says, “…they don’t get it wrong by mistake, they get it wrong by design?”

4. Acemoglu and Roberts briefly discuss the differences between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. Roberts asks Acemoglu, “Why don’t better policies help those people? Why can’t they get there from here?” What is he asking about, and how does Acemoglu respond?

5. What are the three parts of Acemoglu’s theory on why nations fail?

6. Acemoglu regards the Black Death as a “critical juncture” in the history of Europe. What reasons does he give for this, and how does this example bolster his overall theory?

7. Acemoglu offers Botswana as a lone example of national “success” in Africa. What makes Botswana different from other African nations, according to Acemoglu?

8. Acemoglu also offers the example of Argentina, though in a much less positive sense. What makes Argentina different to Acemoglu, and why is it not experiencing “success?”

9. What does Acemoglu suggest as some of the implications of his approach for foreign aid?