Why Nations (and organizations) Fail: Self-Serving Elites

For those who doubt that America is ruled by a narrow elite: three charts.

The book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty neatly summarizes why nations fail in a few lines:

(A nation) is poor precisely because it has been ruled by a narrow elite that has organized society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people. Political power has been narrowly concentrated, and has been used to create great wealth for those who possess it.

Sound like any countries you know?Perhaps we should flip this question around and ask: how many nations don’tfit this profile?

I submit that this dynamic of failure–the concentrated power and wealth of self-serving elites– is scale-invariant, meaning that it is equally true of communities, towns, cities, states, nations and empires alike: all fail when they’re run for the benefit of a narrow elite.

There is a bitter irony in the ease with which American pundits discern this dynamic in developing-world kleptocracies while ignoring the same dynamic in America. One would imagine it would be easier to see the elites-inevitably-cause-failure in one’s home country, but the pundits by and large are members of the Clerisy Upper Caste, well-paid functionaries, apparatchiks, lackeys, factotums, toadies, sycophants and apologists for the very elites that are leading America down the path of systemic failure as the ontological consequence of their self-serving consolidation of wealth and power.

For those who doubt that America is ruled by a narrow elite: I don’t have charts for standard-issue third-world kleptocracies, but I doubt the concentration of wealth and political power is much more extreme than in America:

In a simulacrum democracy where the highest bidders control the state, who do you think can readily buy political power?

And the policies of the elites have really spread the prosperity around in the past few years (sarcasm-off):

What’s truly interesting about the authors’ exhaustive survey of the inevitability of failure in elite-dominated nations is how cities dominated by narrow elites fail, states controlled by narrow elites fail, and indeed, any organization that serves the interests of a few at the expense of the many fails for the same reasons. 

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  • colinjames71

    …By Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. I guess it seems proper to mention the authors. No biggie.

    A good piece by Henry Giroux,


    same conclusion but of course also extends to proposed solutions for building a new Left, and while the author of this washblog piece seems to lean the other direction I think he’d actually agree with just about everything in there, just take the word “left” out. I actually think we need to ditch those left/right terms anyway, as clearly the division it causes amongst the poor and working class only serves to keep the current neoliberal war mongering elite order in place. And I think it’s no accident that two authors from opposite sides of the established political spectrum are pointing to precisely the same root causes of our current problems. And I suppose I’m assuming C.H. Smith is more right wing, just an impression, I guess I’ve only ever seen pieces concerning economics from which to judge from, so maybe let me know if I’m wrong?


    Also, include this huge ‘ROAD’ block! Why the Political Establishment is Censoring Third Parties Interview with Ben Swann

    Oct 16, 2014 Manuel Rápalo speaks with investigative journalist, Ben Swann about the decision of several states to prevent third party candidates to participate in debates and why Congress’ abysmal approval rating doesn’t translate into political change.



    Peter Schiff: If Fed stops QE there’s a recession, we need that recession Oct. 17, 2014 – Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff on the impact of Federal Reserve policy on the market and economy.


  • “apologists for the elites” = TALK RADIO.

    Turn on ANY talk radio show, and it’s 99% chance it’s a rightwing pundit (like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Mark Levin) saying the 1%’s taxes are too high, etc…