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Books - Greedy Bastards & Why Nations Fail

Posted by MacZad
Jun 08 2012

I have recently finished reading two books significant to America's future:

Greedy Bastards by Dylan Ratigan - Simon & Schuster - 2012, $25.00, 245 Pages

If you care about your country's future this book is a must read! It's a rant, but a rant is what's called for. Buy it or get it from the library. Ratigan is mad about our situation. Reading it will make you as mad about it as he is, and will give you some ideas about what we can do to get out country back on the right track.

He tackles several of the things that have been bothering me and offers solutions. No fluff or padding - fairly solid content all the way through. Suggests 4 core values that he calls VICI: Visibility, Integrity, Choice and Interests. His marketplace example using cups could have been better, but otherwise he's right on target. The need for a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people is the central thesis of the book, and he has established united re:public to further the idea which, surprisingly, is also gaining traction with Some Washington lawmakers. If you want more detail about the book's content read this Seeking Alpha review.


Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson - Crown Publishers - 2012, $30.00, 529 Pages

I wish that I could recommend reading this excellent book for the authors obviously have much time and thought invested in it, and it's a very significant contribution to economic understanding. However, it's far too long - should have been no more than 200 pages, and I can't recommend reading it. Here's my take on what you need to know:

The book's compelling central thesis is that nations fail because: (1) their politics favor a small group of elites and the status quo - there's little or no creative destruction and the old businesses and organizations survive long past the time when they should have been replaced by the new, and/or (2) they lack sufficient central control over the country. These weak countries have extractive governments, and it seems to be hard mold to break out of for in most of these countries the money piles up in Swiss bank accounts while the populace suffers through one extractive regime after another. The authors aren't very optimistic about the possibility of meaningful change in most of the extractive countries. (Number 2 above would seem to doom Afghanistan despite all our efforts.) In contrast inclusive (pluralistic) governments (US, Britain, France, etc) seem to be almost happy accidents with just the right things having happened at the right times in history to make broad-based governance possible. If you want more detail here's Bloomberg's review.

How lucky we are to live in one of the inclusive societies! However, in our country the extractors (sometimes called rent-seekers) have been hard at work for the past 30+ years bending government policies to their liking so we are slowly becoming an extractive society - our "corps of plutocratic elites" is already in almost full control. This quote on the book's the applicability to the US is from Tom Freedman's review: "Acemoglu worries that our huge growth in economic inequality is undermining the inclusiveness of America’s institutions, too. 'The real problem is that economic inequality, when it becomes this large, translates into political inequality.' When one person can write a check to finance your whole campaign, how inclusive will you be as an elected official to listen to competing voices?"

Categories: Opposing Plutocracy and Corporatocracy, Seeking Better Governance