- Concrete Examples
Whether you’re from a wealthy nation, an impoverished one or somewhere in between, you’ve probably asked yourself why your country inhabits its place in the international hierarchy. Culture? Natural resources? Luck? When the Spaniards came to the new world, they sought gold and other riches, but they didn’t plan on mining the precious metals themselves. The trick, they found in places like Peru and Mexico, was to capture the king, take his wealth and then torment him until he begged his people to give in to the Spaniards’ demands. Eventually, the people were organized into a system of forced labor that extracted then transported local resources back to Europe, enriching the Europeans and impoverishing native American peoples. European settlers weren’t able to do this in all regions in the Americas, however. In Jamestown, when it became clear the indigenous people wouldn’t provide the slave labor needed to make the colony economically successful, the Virginia Company was forced to incentivize labor among its colonists, offering them land and a vote in the General Assembly. A semi-democratic system emerged, which eventually led to the inclusive political and economic systems that define the United States today.
It is these pluralistic institutions, economists Daron Acemoğlu and James A. Robinson argue, which are most responsible for world inequality and the economic success and failure of nations.
About the Authors
Daron Acemoğlu is an American economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. James A. Robinson is a political scientist and economist at the University of Chicago.