Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to read an important book every two weeks and discuss it with the Facebook community.
Zuckerberg’s book club, A Year of Books, has focused on big ideas that influence society and business. For his 18th pick, he’s gone with “Why Nations Fail” by MIT economist Daren Acemoğlu and Harvard political scientist James Robinson, first published in 2012.
After 15 years of research, the authors conclude that the main reason why some nations are home to millions of severely impoverished citizens while others provide a much higher quality of life is politics.
They say “extractive governments” use controls to enforce the power of a select few, while “inclusive governments” create open markets that allow citizens to spend and invest money freely.
The authors argue that economic growth does not always indicate the long-term health of a country, since its markets may be in the hands of an extractive government. They cite China and Russia as contemporary examples.
Acemoğlu and Robinson also cite this as the reason billions in foreign aid can actually increase inequality when it’s given to the wrong governments.
Writing for the New York Review of Books, Jared Diamond says he found fault with the authors’ dismissal of other important factors that contribute to widespread, severe poverty like geography, climate, and natural resources, but he still finds their explorations of institutional effects to be so thorough as to declare it “required reading for politicians and anyone concerned with economic development.”
Zuckerberg explains his latest book-club pick on his personal Facebook page:
This book explores the different kinds of social institutions and incentives that nations have applied to encourage prosperity, economic development and elimination of poverty.
This is a good complement to our last book, “Portfolios of the Poor,” which focused on how people live in poverty. This one discusses why poverty exists and how to reduce it.
Zuckerberg’s interest in philanthropy has grown alongside his wealth in recent years. He has an estimated net worth of $US41.6 billion, according to Wealth-X, and has taken Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s “Giving Pledge,” a promise to donate half of his wealth before his death. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have already donated hundreds of millions of dollars to healthcare, education, technology, and immigration reform initiatives.
On his Facebook page, Zuckerberg adds that he’s been making his way through “Why Nations Fail” alongside his dog, Beast:
A Year of Books so far:
- “The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be” by Moisés Naím
- “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker
- “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets” by Sudhir Venkatesh
- “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss
- “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
- “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn
- “Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge” by Michael Chwe
- “Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower” by Henry M. Paulson
- “Orwell’s Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest” by Peter Huber
- “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
- “The Muqaddimah” by Ibn Khaldun
- “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari
- “The Player of Games” by Iain M. Banks
- “Energy: A Beginner’s Guide” by Vaclav Smil
- “Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters” by Matt Ridley
- “The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature” by William James
- “Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $US2 a Day” by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven
- “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” by Daren Acemoğlu and James Robinson
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