'Why Nations Fail': Can elites choke American prosperity?
Writer Daron Acemoglu says ancient Venice could teach the US a historical lesson.
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After centuries of growth, wealthy families eventually found ways to close political power off from newcomers and used it to close off newcomers from the economy as well. That, according to “Why Nations Fail,” is “how Venice became a museum.”Skip to next paragraph
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“In Venice,” explains Acemoglu, “things started unraveling not when economic inequality increased but when political inequality increased – when a particular group of merchant families worked to seal the system to start monopolizing political power.”
Despite the rise of money in politics in the US today, there are still plenty of signs of pluralism and competition as well.
“There is an open media,” says Acemoglu, “not controlled by anybody or by an interest. And though the US public has become somewhat apolitical, we have seen with the Tea Party and Occupy movement that there is a lot of political energy, and it is hard to contain that energy even if people wanted to suppress it.”
Further conversations with Daron Acemoglu, coauthor of “Why Nations Fail”:
Marshall Ingwerson is the Monitor's managing editor.