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Why nations fail | James Robinson | TEDxAcademy

Translator: Chryssa Takahashi
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Thank you very much.
I am James Robinson. I am going to talk about why nations fail
and why nations succeed as well, which is really about
why some countries are poor and some countries are prosperous. It turns out you can tell a lot
about the answers to that question by looking at the Korean
peninsula at night. If you look at Korean peninsula at night,
you see some obvious things. That South Korea
has a lot of light, electricity. North Korea, on the other hand, is rather dark. There you can see a spot of light. That’s probably the presidential
palace in Pyongyang. (Laughter) Now, there could be different reasons
why North Korea is very dark at night. It could be that North Koreans
have electricity and light bulbs, but they just think candles
are more romantic. (Laughter) It could be, on the other hand, that North Koreans
have electricity and light bulbs, but they are just trying
to reduce their carbon footprint. I think, however,
the more plausible explanation is that actually North Koreans don’t
have access to the types of technologies like electricity and power
and light bulbs that South Koreans do. And that enormously restricts
their economic potential. So one thing we know about the difference
between poor countries and rich countries is that poor countries, like North Korea, tend to have much worse technology
than rich countries. Let me tell you about
some other things we know about the differences between
poor countries and rich countries. Poor countries have
much less educated people. They tend to have
much less healthy people. They live shorter lives. They have much worse government
services, like infrastructure. So, here is an idyllic Congolese
driving scene in a part of the world where I do a lot of research,
the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is what they call, somewhat
ironically in the Congo, Interstate No 1. And you can see that driving
on Interstate No. 1, you spend a lot of time digging
your car out of sand and mud. This is the dry season.
If it was the rainy season, forget it. You are not going anywhere. So poor countries have much worse
infrastructure public services. So why is it that poor and rich countries
differ in terms of their public services, their technologies,
their levels of education? Well, some people think
that it’s just that poor countries are too poor to afford to build roads, or too poor to use modern technologies
like electricity and light bulbs – not that modern, really,
if you think about it. But anyway, they’re too poor to use it. But I didn’t think that’s right. Most of poor counties where I do research, lots of resources that could
be used for these things are wasted. Now, here is an example of that. You may know this gentleman.
He is called Robert Mugabe. He is the president of Zimbabwe. He has been president for 34 years. You think, you probably known him
as a good politician. What you didn’t know
is he’s also a remarkably lucky man. In fact, he won the lottery.
So how about that? Someone who is a great politician
and he also wins the lottery. I mean, come on. Does Greece
have politicians like that? I mean, Britain doesn’t. So, he is a lucky guy, and I am thinking,
I am sort of trying to suggest that this may not be
completely coincidental that he happens to have been
president for 34 years and he also in his spare time
wins the lottery. (Laughter) That road, by the way,
I showed you in 2010 in the Congo, in 1960 that was a nice
tarmaced surfaced road that has since deteriorated into the bush. So I don’t think the real reason
that poor countries are poor and prosperous countries are prosperous is that poor countries just cannot afford to do the sorts of things
necessary to become rich. I think the explanation is, and that is what I am going to argue
in the rest of my presentation, that poor countries and rich countries
are organized in very different ways. And that organization in rich countries creates incentives
and opportunities for people, and in poor countries, it doesn’t. In fact, most poor countries
are organized in ways which block people’s incentives
and block people’s opportunities. And that’s what creates poverty. So let me give you
a very specific example of that which I’ve realized
it is sort of the theme, you know, it’s almost the motif of the whole event,
which is the light bulb. I was only expecting to connect this
to North and South Korea, but there we had all these light bulbs
and Shakespeare that started the day. So what is this? This is a patent. It was taken out by Thomas Edison in 1880,
who invented the light bulb. So Edison had an invention. And what did he do?
He took out a patent. The patent protected
his intellectual property rights. It stopped people from copying his idea. And that created incentives
for people to innovate. So, that was a very important stimulus
for innovation in 19th century U.S. Let me tell you a few other things
about the patent system. The patent system was actually set up
by the US constitution. The first patent law’s in 1790, and Thomas Jefferson, not Thomas Edison, one of the founding
fathers of the United States, was actually on the first patent board
handing out patents. The system was open to everybody. So, it didn’t matter who you were,
you could pay the same fee, you got a patent, and the government protected
your intellectual property rights, OK? Now, that’s absolutely crucial
because we know as economists that one of the huge differences
between poor and rich countries is exactly innovation,
exactly technological change. It’s that new technologies
that don’t spread from South Korea to North Korea. So, here’s an example of would call
an economic institution, a kind of rule that creates incentives
and opportunities in society, and this institution
has a particular property which I’m going to call inclusive. It’s inclusive in a particular
and important way because if you look at who are
these people who are filing patents? You know, Thomas Edison. Who? What were their social backgrounds? Well, it turns out,
they came from all over society. Poor people, rich people,
elite, non-elite, farmers, artists, professional people,
educated people, non-educated people. Talent, ideas, skill,
creativity, entrepreneurship are spread very broadly in society. And if you want to have
a prosperous society, you need to have a set of institutions that can harness all that
latent talent in society. That’s what inclusive
institutions are about, and that’s exactly how
the patent system worked. Countries like Zimbabwe,
or Democratic Republic of Kongo, or North Korea, which are poor, have economic institutions that create very different
incentives and opportunities than inclusive economic institutions
like the patent system. To illustrate that in a richer way, let me bring time
from 1880 right up today, and talk about why the United States
is richer than Mexico, just across the border. I’m going to do that
in a very particular context. I’m going get you think about
the two richest men in the world, Bill Gates and Carlos Slim. Bill Gates from United States of America,
Carlos Slim from Mexico. What’s really interesting
about the comparison is the way those people made their money. Bill Gates was an entrepreneur. He set up a company when he was
a Harvard undergraduate. He made a fortune through innovation
in the computer software industry. Carlos Slim, on the other hand, made a fortune
through creating monopolies, and through owning a monopoly,
a telecommunications monopoly. According to the Organization
of Economic Cooperation and Development, Carlos Slim’s monopoly created
an enormous amount of wealth for him, reduces national income in Mexico
by about 2% a year, for the period of 2005 to 2009
it actually reduced income in Mexico by 130 billion dollars. So, in the United States, Bill Gates responded
to the inclusive nature of institutions, creating incentives,
creating opportunities. What happened? He generated innovation,
he generated new ideas, and that created wealth for him, it created a vast amount
of wealth for society. What happened in Mexico
was something very different. The way to create wealth
was not through innovation, but through creating monopolies. Monopolies block
other people’s opportunities, and they block other people’s incentives. Extractive institutions is what I’m
going to call the opposite of inclusive. I gave the patent system as an example
of an inclusive economic institution. Let me say that there is something else, and that’s what’s going on in Mexico,
in North Korea, and Zimbabwe. I’m going to call that
extractive economic institutions. Rules in society that impede
incentives and opportunities. So, that’s the difference between
poor and rich countries, in a nutshell. But now, let’s go
one layer back in the onion and ask, “OK, fine. So how come
the United States ended up like that?” or “How come Mexico is like that?” and “Why is Zimbabwe like that?” The example of president
Mugabe winning the lottary is perhaps meant to plant
a seed in your mind. And so now, I’d like the seed
to sort of grow a little. But I’m not going to grow it in Zimbabwe. Let me go back to the United States and
back to the patent system, back in 1790, when Thomas Jefferson
was on the patent board, and get you to think, “OK, so how come they ended up
with this patent system like this? What was the secret?” And I think there were two secrets,
and they are very political. So, ultimately, I think what matters
for economic prosperity, for success and failure, is inclusive
and extractive economic institutions. But lying behind that is politics. And I want to emphasize
two dimensions of politics. One is, how did you end up
in the United States with this patent law
that treated everybody equally, that gave everybody equal access
to patenting on the same terms. That was because in the United States
in the late 18th century, political power was sufficiently
broadly distributed in society, but you couldn’t have some
oligarchive patent system. You couldn’t have a patent system
where Thomas Jefferson could decide, “Mmm, maybe you get a patent,
and maybe you don’t. Maybe I’ll give you a patent,
but I don’t like your face. You’re not getting a patent.” That wasn’t possible, given how
democratic US society was at that time. So, one thing which is important about
creating these inclusive institutions was the distribution
of political power in society. The broad distribution of political power. The other thing was important,
was at that time, the United States had a strong state
that could enforce the patent. It wasn’t just a matter
of passing the law, it was enforcing the law. The state would come, and they would
protect your intellectual property rights. So, these two things are very important. So let me bring that to the present and show you a photograph
of Bill Gates in Washington DC. Now, what is he doing here? He’s giving testimony
to the US anti-trust authority. Here’s the strong US state in action. Both of these elements
that I talked about, the distribution of power
and the strength of the state are crucial for understanding the difference between
Bill Gates and Carlos Slim. How did Carlos Slim
get his monopolies? It was a one-party state,
the PRI, the one-party state, which had been in power
since the late 1920s, in the 1990s, privatized
a monopoly to Carlos Slim. Mexico has very nice anti-trust laws. But it’s inconceivable that Carlos Slim
would have to do what Bill Gates did, which was to come and, you know, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole
truth and nothing but the truth,” in front of anti-trust authorities
in Washington DC. So, this is the power of the state. And if you think about
both of these examples, both of these elements come in. The fact that Carlos Slim
could create his monopolies because political power was not
broadly distributed in Mexico, and the anti-trust laws that exist
in Mexico cannot be enforced, because the state is too weak
to enforce them. In the United States it’s inconceivable that you could have such
a monopolization of industry, and the state is capable
of enforcing the law. And in fact, anti-trust laws
are a fascinating example. If you go back to a hundred
years before this. This is the octopus
of the Standard Oil Company. The Standard Oil Company
was run by John Rockefeller. It was an enormous attempt to build
a monopoly in the United States. You can see here, it’s got its tentacles
around the White House, it’s got its tentacles
around the politicians, around Congress, it’s enveloping the political system
with its wealth and connections. It was broken up
by federal anti-trust authority. So, there’s a long battle
against monopolies, against extractive institutions
in an inclusive society. So, what about Greece? (Laughter) Let me say something about Greece. How does Greece fit into this? Well, of course, compared to Zimbabwe,
or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Haiti, or North Korea,
Greece is an enormous success. Greece has been enormously successful,
economically, in the past 100 years. It’s diversified its economy, it’s raised people’s
living standards enormously, it’s broadened education, health, etc. But I think, the problems
of Greece in the last decade stem from the problems of reconciling
these two dimensions of politics that you need to create
an inclusive society. Reconciling, building
an effective strong modern state with having a democracy where political power
is broadly distributed. Now, when I talked about the United States you might have been thinking, “Gosh,
these things smoothly come into place, you have one thing, you have the other. You want to have a broad
distribution of power that makes the state accountable. You want to have a strong state
because that makes democracy effective. You can enforce the rules, but I think the more you look,
and the more you think, you see that actually in many contexts these two dimensions
are difficult to reconcile. They sometimes have
an enormous contradictory feature. And I think that’s part
of the problem in Greece, particularly since
the redemocratization in 1974, is that Greek society
has found it difficult to reconcile building an effective central
state based on rules. Remember my example of the patent system, how crucial it was that this was a rule,
the patent system applied to everyone, the same rules applied to everyone. That’s what generated
these incentives and opportunities. If Thomas Jefferson had been handing out
patents to people on the basis, “Hey, I want to be president,
so if you support me, let’s start building a coalition,
then you get your patent.” “I don’t like your face. You don’t
look like you’re going to be on my team. You’re not going to get a patent.” If that had been how
the US patent system worked, then it would not have
the incentive effects, the effects on innovation and economic
development, that it did have. And I think that once you think about it, you can see that when you
increase political power, when you create political power
broadly in society, that can create pressures to undermine
the functionality of the state. To undermine the strong state. To make the state become a tool
of the political struggle rather than a neutral arbiter
of new rules and universal principles. And I would say, that’s the root cause
of a lot of the problems, from my perspective, in Greece. Trying to make the state
work properly, to enforce rules, to not be clientalistic,
to enforce universal principles. And a lot of the economics
stems from that. The way I’m talking now
is sort of politics. Politics, it’s about politics.
Economics is crucial. But economic institutions
and economic incentives and opportunities are embedded in a political society. And they stem from a political process. And I think that’s being
the problem in Greece. Think about the deficit
or the fiscal problem. Why has that happened? That didn’t happen
for some technical reason. It didn’t happen because Greek governments
had the wrong economic advisors. It happened because of this problem
of reconciling democracy with creating a strong state. If the state becomes a tool
for serving private interests and not public interests, serving individuals and not following
the collective welfare in society, then of course you’re going
to have terrible fiscal policy and unsustainable debt problems. Stable macroeconomic
policies are public good, but if the state become clientalized,
it’s not about providing public good. It’s about providing private goods. So who’s internalizing the debt
or the deficit? Nobody. So, that’s a natural context
to get unsustainable fiscal policy. So what’s the solution to this? Not fiscal austerity. Fiscal austerity might be necessary
to keep the Germans happy, but you’re treating the
symptoms, not the cause. The cause is political. The solution to the problem
is to find a way of reconciling these two elements to build
inclusive political institutions. And where does that come from? That’s a political project. That’a about organizing
people collectively. Clientelism is always
individually rational, it’s just not collectively
rational for society. So, you have to build a project. Politicians have to build
a project to build the state, to build a non-clientelistic state, to reform the interface
between state and society in Greece. And if you ask me, am I optimistic
or pessimistic about Greece, then I’d start looking at the politics,
and I’d start looking at civil society and ask, “Who has
that project? Where is it?” (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)

Jean Kelley



  1. NeoMaxim Posted on October 7, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Political power and free markets cannot be reconciled. This is the point that is ultimately missed. When you have free markets, populations generate tremendous wealth, which is then expropriated by governments and redistributed in a wasteful fashion. South Korea has a freer market compared to North Korea, that is the only reason for its prosperity, and it can be argued that it would generate even more wealth with less government regulation. North Korea is a great example of the big boot of Government's true function: to limit the prosperity and quality of life of its population in order to maintain a parasitic political elite class.

  2. WorldLady Posted on October 7, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    The US economy is not inclusive, nor is its political system. As per 2013 US statistics, the top 10% of income earners own 74% of the wealth. The top 25% of earners own 90% of the wealth. The bottom 50% of earners own a measly 1.4% of the wealth. That's NOT at all inclusive. The income inequality in the US is the same as in 3rd world countries. The 6 members on the Walton family have as much wealth as the bottom 30% of the US population combined (that's 100 million people). Now, let's talk about how inclusive and broadly representative politics are in the US. Currently, there is NO limit on the financial contributions wealthy individuals AND corporations can make to finance the election of politicians. Whoever has the money owns the government. That means the bottom 75% of the US population has no representation — and their rights and income have been steadily declining for years. The United States was built on wonderful democratic principles of equality and inclusion, but that is history. Today the exact opposite is true.

  3. WorldLady Posted on October 8, 2014 at 12:15 am

    What the speaker is trying to get at is CONSCIOUSNESS. Consciousness is primary, everything else follows. The reality we create is a reflection of our consciousness. When the collective consciousness of a country is egocentric, people only care about their own self, see themselves as separate from others, and create systems (political, economic, education, healthcare, etc) that are exclusive. What is important for each individual is that they have access to stuff and nobody else does, because they want it all for themselves. That creates dictatorships, corruption, poverty, exploitation, discrimination, lack of access to education, lack of access to healthcare, disease, lack of infrastructure, wars, environmental devastation, etc. When the collective consciousness of a country is worldcentric, or better yet cosmocentric, people care about everyone and everything in the world or in the universe, they know that everything in the world/universe is one inseparable living breathing organism and create systems (political, economic, education, healthcare, etc) that are inclusive. People honor as sacred the right of everyone and everything to exist and thrive in peace, love and harmony with everyone and everything else. That creates broadly representative political systems, no corruption, equality and respect for all, prosperity and abundance for all, education for all, health, infrastructure that doesn't harm the environment, peace, cooperation, harmony, happiness, environmental stewardship, etc. Each individual contributes to the whole and is held and supported by the whole. The harmony of the whole system is created by all and affects/benefits all. The systems we create are simply a reflection of our consciousness. What we need to do is raise our consciousness from egocentric to cosmocentric. When we do that, our systems and overall reality will also change for the better beyond our wildest dreams, reflecting that higher consciousness. If you want to live a better life, if you want to live in a better world, raise your consciousness to cosmocentric consciousness. It starts with the man in the mirror. I did it and you can too. Start today!

  4. Chance Robinson Posted on October 8, 2014 at 6:45 am

    What a myth! The only differences between Carols Slim and Bill Gates are: 1) Carlos Slim took care of his bribes first. After Microsoft hired an army of lobbyists and made a few campaign contributions, the Department of Justice settled the case; and 2.) Just like the Carnieges, Rockefellers, and all the rest, try and buy their good name back by appearing to give the wealth they stole away, but they still control enough to keep themselves in the 0.001%. Once they're gone, no one is around who remembers them as ruthless robber barons.  The distribution of wealth in the U.S. is proportionately the same as the Third World.

  5. Anna Korbinska Posted on October 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    wonderfull theory…but full of half-truths … :/

  6. Chance Robinson Posted on October 8, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Paul, you're not bitter or cynical, just observant…, must have worked in IT. Lies like this, factoids, tend to get in the history books before truth ever gets in the newspaper.  In fact, being a "Truther" is now a pejorative. 

  7. Marco Pinteiro Posted on October 9, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Sombody please tell JAMES ROBINSON that Microsoft have been sued for monopoly!

  8. Policy Maker Posted on October 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    His comments and comparisons might have been a bit too romantic for some, but the theory is so well put together by the facts and history/experience thats its hard to imagine it might not be 100% true. Sure some specific situations might need better analysis, but at its core, it just makes TOO much sense, compared to other theories. My favorite "book" up to now.

  9. Not8upwthit Posted on November 15, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Edison was a fraud, Tesla was the true genius. Of course the Banksters buried this because they could make tons of money off of us. Tesla had figured out a way to provide essentially free electricity to us all. Couldn't have that could we ?

  10. laarson johnson Posted on July 10, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Thank god for Microsoft not creating monopolies, oh wait didn't they had lawsuits in europe just because of monopolies they created. Take this speech with lot of criticism.

  11. TheZoltanChronicles Posted on September 7, 2015 at 1:02 am

    I have read the book "Why nations fail" (I'm not even kidding) probably 20 times AT LEAST and it blows Guns Germs and Steel right out of the water. Institutions are the reason behind the failure and success of nations a simple look at any economic map will show this.

  12. KootFloris Posted on December 17, 2015 at 10:11 am

    He totally ignores the activities of some very rich countries (read incl. huge corporations) to keep many poor countries poor. Most famously USA support to dictators who protect their interests.

  13. Felipe Mejia Medina Posted on January 6, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Such a good book, such a bad conference.

  14. Ryan Ogden Posted on June 9, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Oh my goodness! Ken robinson has six siblings and his father's name is James. is this ken robinson's brother??? He kind of looks like him. He's even British! haha

  15. Víctor Pacheco Posted on June 21, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Really??? Carlos Slim made his fourtune by holding a monopoly (which i do not doubt) but Bill Gates with Microsoft, that has been found guilty of antitrust behavior by the FTC in several ocassions, didnt?

  16. rick fucci Posted on November 3, 2016 at 1:47 am

    The U.S. did well for many years because of the immigration of people striving to escape the dark age tyrannical political structures of the old world. The strength of these people set in motion the wave of change that has lead to a new dark age Tyrannical Political structure with the power to destroy the human race… We need new institutions that can replace these old dark age empire structures..

  17. Divya John Posted on January 18, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    what about the role played by colonialism in making nations fail in the 21st century? The remnants of colonialism and imperialism still exist today

  18. Emmanuel Iziomoh Posted on April 11, 2017 at 7:48 am

    Would like to ask whether James Robinson has been to North Korea???

  19. jones061 Posted on April 24, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    I don't think this dude is very good… the patent system is not inclusive because slaves created most of the inventions and got no credit for them!!!

  20. HowSci Posted on July 23, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    This theory might be fine, but he's given a plenty of bad examples.

  21. Shadoufang Posted on July 29, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Because of US+allies intervention (invasion and infiltration) ;'DD
    (and I'm only A BIT kidding… look it up, even until today 2017 — the Venezuela conflicts, Syria and Yemen.)

  22. caesarmatty Posted on September 7, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Every audience shot shows a hundred assholes on their phones.

  23. Bastiat in the Andes Posted on September 23, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    Great! Only thing I did not understand is what is an institution.

  24. yourtv Posted on October 8, 2017 at 10:46 pm

    Income inequality in US is what makes it strong.

  25. I Created An Account For This Posted on October 17, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Interesting that I don't think he mentioned corruption once, yet he appears to be drawing a comparison between relatively corrupt institutions and non-corrupt ones.

  26. Shadow Show Posted on October 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Keep swilling that Kool Aid James and hopefully the reality of first World's rigged and closed system will remain unknown to you till you die. To those who know how the patent law really operates have no delusions about American moral high grounds or any such fairytale as equality of opportunity in the so-called 'free Western democracies'

  27. Vagus Nervus Posted on October 25, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    You never hear these kinds of jokes mocking people and nations in speeches given by scientists like Noam Chomsky. So many missed points and obvious mistakes, such us no mentioning of external factors whatsoever (wars), or that Bill Gates DID build a monopoly and was sued for that reason, Microsoft HAS stolen hundreds of concepts (intellectual property) from Apple and other countless companies and has had many issues with that.
    Bottom line: the book basically casts a brief look at the current state of affairs and gives no meaningful insight into Why Nations Fail. Which is I strongly believe, can't be given a simple, unequivocal and definite answer. There's one answer though that makes more sense than this whole book: concentration of power. Including South Korea whose power-base is the US.

  28. Vagus Nervus Posted on October 25, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Oh, don't you dare mentioning the Congo… Congo's hope, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was murdered through US and Belgian proxies in 1961 – he refused to sell the country's natural resources to Western corporations 'for free' – his body dismembered and dissolved in sulfate. Should I also add who ruled there before that? Belgian stooges the like of Leopold 2nd of Belgium, who alone is responsible for the death of nearly 15 f**in' million people… It's all on wiki and all over the Internet…

  29. Žaneta Baršić-Schneider Posted on October 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Not that I'm an advocate of the Soviet regime in Eastern Europe, BUT most of the extremely poor and corrupted African countries would be more than happy with the very well organized and free healthcare, education, housing, paved roads only to mention the few of achievements including those in science. Remeber Jurij Gagarin, the first man in Space?

  30. Roberto Orsi Posted on November 3, 2017 at 8:13 am

    You cannot compare North Korea and Congo.
    North Korea is poor, but it is not total chaos.
    Congo is a complete disaster even if it is not a communist state or a nation in an awkward geopolitical spot. Something else rather that just institutional difference is going on.
    If anything, North and South Korea, or even Japan, demonstrate that certain cultures reproduce patterns of order regardless of political and economic conditions.

  31. Eric Posted on November 5, 2017 at 5:46 am

    Corporations are dictatorships, when they have the income of a small country they can manipulate those and even bigger countries. The result is democracy is just a façade. The financial position of the corporation becomes more important, the starving poor don't matter. There are times when the American Government has stepped in to protect American corporations.

  32. emawerna Posted on November 16, 2017 at 6:52 am

    It is silly to say that a particular set of rules or institutions is what creates the success.  You've ignored law variations and institutional variations within the subset of successful people.   Japan has vastly different laws than does the U.S.  Saudi Arabia has different laws than France. 

    This is the same type of thinking behind lots of diet trends.  If only I can find the exact right diet formula, I will be successful.  I will lose weight without giving up anything.  We should focus all our efforts on finding the exact right formula.  Right???  It isn't like persistent effort coupled with any sensible diet is the right answer. 

    Go ahead have that chocolate bar you want.  In the case of Greece, go ahead spending without austerity even to the point of threatening your stability.  As long as you have the exact right formula of institutions and rules, you should be fine.  Right???

    Once you've found the magic set of rules and institutions to keep countries from failing, call me.  I need a consultation on creating the exact right set of rules and systems to make my toddler behave.  That should be child's play compared to diagnosing the laws and institutions of whole countries.

  33. MCMXC Posted on November 29, 2017 at 12:37 am

    This is a huge waste of my time. It's like he lives in a utopia where people don't do I'll stuff to get ahead. He is delusional!!

  34. WAYNE'S-WORLD Posted on December 5, 2017 at 10:16 am

    He could have saved us all 18 minutes of our time by just coming out and saying – 'I dont know' lol.

  35. Visda58 Posted on December 6, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    What's funny is Edison didn't invent the damn light bulb. He was better versed in patent law, and got the original Inventor's patent disqualified on a technicality.

  36. Erick Taylor Posted on December 27, 2017 at 12:38 am

    The government does not protect inventors from infringement on their patents; a patent only gives you the RIGHT to sue someone who infringes on your patent. Often the legal cost of defending your rights as an independent inventor is prohibitive. Large corporations run roughshod over inventors taking what they please with very little consequences if any at all.

  37. Medha Circle Posted on December 29, 2017 at 5:22 am

    microsoft was a monopoly too – corporate tax paid was negligible

  38. SYED ADEEL HUSSAIN Posted on January 8, 2018 at 11:34 am

    rubbish example of the USA is not valid. Nordic Nations is the best model of sustainable economic growth, development, and equality. Economic liberty has the power to change lives but it can also flourish in the absence of democracy. All Se- Asian Nations were dictatorships. The political economy of development in Asian Tiger economies minus HongKong was highly interventionist that adhered to Keynesian Principles of Economic Management. Malaysia had Mahathir, Singapore had Lee and South Korea had a military man Hee. Taiwan that blossomed under a military dictatorship and so did Vietnam which is still a one-party state. China is one good slap in the face of libertarians too.

  39. Eric Posted on January 11, 2018 at 12:02 am

    I don't disagree with James Robinson, however it is part of the story. Poor countries are disadvantaged by Big corporations in that they can avoid taxes. They sell the product (usually Minerals) to a subsidiary outside the country, at a very low price, thus you have not made much profit and pay very little tax. The subsidiary then sells it at a very good price to the rest of the world from a place that has very low tax. I can understand corporations not wanting to pay taxes to a despot, Mugabe being a very good example. But there are some good African leaders too. It is also worth mentioning poor countries cannot retain their Doctors.

  40. phiAndpi Posted on January 14, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Edison never invented the light bulb, Sir Joseph Swan did, having a patent never stopped Edison from using other people's idea! If you can't get the history of your own country right it doesn't bode well on getting anybody else's correct!

  41. Vic Bailey Posted on January 24, 2018 at 1:36 am

    Countries fail because of GREED and POWER Struggles, just like our country politicians spend $20 Million to get a $174,000 a year job. The love for money and power destroyed every country, especially when the Socialist values are put in place. Semper Fi.

  42. henrychoong100 Posted on January 24, 2018 at 5:59 am

    people in poor country live peacefully..no handphone, no midnight calls or message which will spoil your weekend or holiday…and people in poor country live soundly, no cable TV news with full of conflicts news . Disturb our mind unnecessarily..

  43. Andrew Cliffe Posted on February 1, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Countries spending big on building their economies are mostly on the way up
    Countries spending big on wars and armaments are mostly on the way down

  44. William Duffy Posted on February 9, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Watching this is a waste of time. This guys analysis was lousy.

  45. Tarvis Bickler Posted on February 17, 2018 at 4:15 am

    Mugabe went to MSU, East Lansing Michigan USA

  46. Bob Beckel Posted on February 22, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    I think he is saying monopolies are bad. But, he does not seem to recognize a strong government is a monopoly.

  47. exorientelux Posted on February 25, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Greece is doing to the EU what Greeks have done to the Turks/Ottomans: Resisting and collecting huge subventions at the same time.

  48. Kurt Fram Posted on March 10, 2018 at 4:56 am

    I have huge reservations against this speaker. First he was using USA as an example of good non corrupt political system and then he said that the patent system creates equal oppotunity. Then he used Bill Gates as a prime exampel of a good guy LMAO. Here are some ideas for this guy for his next speech A free and open internet (knowledge sharing) free public education (also knowledge sharing but on a fundamental level) and then to get big money out of politics (anti corruption) as good examples of how to get succesfull as a society in the eyes of the avarage population and not only the super rich.

  49. jo-jo volkswagen Posted on April 1, 2018 at 11:28 am

    U mean pay the fee and get bully and hurt and waste twenty years just to be in the bus ? Or I misunderstand something with moral , equality, human right , dark power , rules laws outlaws in the spaceouter area that Roman king system do anything no problem but how about the kids who know nothing with your game and be break broken heart , try to wake up in this world , but can make or make peace with thought in the head about …what type of the human in this world …do they like predators..do they eat each other when they can find other meat ? Or what is beside that camera and the topic chaos for the budget . …? U looking for the one who know how to make business in this game or not? If yes .. press 1 or press 1 again…because it is the answer..

  50. jo-jo volkswagen Posted on April 1, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Is it my turn yet? To be bad ? I am burning ….feeling …like …I really don't want but u don't need to force me because I think I capable now.. or … something else ?

  51. jo-jo volkswagen Posted on April 1, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Domino or Pizza Hut ? Do u need finger to push the …..one down ….so…. it will all falling down …. let me know 🙂

  52. jo-jo volkswagen Posted on April 1, 2018 at 11:38 am

    The most difficult scenes of this movie is when the god and poor kids meet with the judgement day ….fading with the hope to have the love …because love is my life purpose …to make my love be perfect and fit with the issue of society and happy ending at the end and make the city that we stay and do nothing because lost in trap…and make the people understand this kids about how they see the world in the positive not negative way even they are suffering from it.

  53. Raul Sebastian Rivera Martinez Posted on April 29, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    At first sight it was like Heisenberg giving a speech

  54. myroseaccount Posted on May 13, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Nations fail because the WEST bombs them into oblivion.

  55. Dusgud Posted on May 27, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    because of decades of imperialism, war profiteering, genocide, and exploitation.

  56. Dusgud Posted on May 27, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Imperial puppets install dictators to ease and allow the exploitation and take away the basic rights and freedom from the locals. Your presentation is pure propaganda!

  57. Abdulqadir Burco duuray Posted on May 28, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Oh he forgot the World Bank and IMF the constant harassment of powerful Nations.

  58. Stephen So Posted on June 1, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Such a rubbish talk.

  59. AUGUSTUS CAESER Posted on June 5, 2018 at 3:35 am

    I think hes oversimplifying it. I think theres and he has hit on one part of it and there is more where he has missed

  60. Contrarywise Posted on June 13, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Why do nations fail? Because they don't have vast military power to ensure self determination and foreign policies to enable them steal, terrorize, commit genocide at whim and attend UN meetings to talk about absolute nonsense. these people are a joke. Talking about failing nations and he mentions Bill Gates and Thomas Edison.

  61. MegzeeR Posted on June 21, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    And yet another tale of some country where patents are freely given to all inventors who have original ideas and the government enforces all controlling factors of the invention to the holders by stopping anyone else who tries to steal the idea for their own use. At one time a country named the United States of America really did this and it was a very successful model for economic incentives that grew that nation into the top producing country ever existing in world history. However this country no longer exists and has been replaced by a professional circus team who still can spin the yarn fast enough to knit the needed curtain that covers their backstage of corporate boardrooms of the megalithic nations called international "businesses" and the patent procedures are the joke of the nightly after dinner drinks and camaraderie.

  62. Paweł Wolnicki Posted on July 9, 2018 at 8:00 am

    The fallacy of looking at the world though only the prismat of power, while the power is included in the hierarchy of competence – it is only one means of gathering wealth.

  63. Abi Lapid Posted on August 20, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    The Korea example was spot on

  64. Tobias Roberts Posted on August 21, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    I love this man point I really do and I'll defiantly give his book "Why Nations Fail" a read, my only desire was for this amazing point to have been vocalized more eloquently. The point he he's makes is surprisingly topical and something that many in the US need to better understand. If only he had a better way with words then this message would reach further.

  65. Cordee A Posted on August 28, 2018 at 12:51 am

    Hey mate, you forgot to speak about the exploitation and corruption of the west on less developed nations

  66. immigrant george Posted on October 3, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Bill Gates create chances for others??? As if Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly nearly across the whole world…

  67. Rich Gallagher Posted on October 24, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    What about IMF loans and corporations taking resources.

  68. Rich Gallagher Posted on October 24, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Bill Gate was given technology. His mother worked at IBM in HR department. He and Steve Jobs stole windows

  69. David Gerard Stack Posted on October 30, 2018 at 10:27 am

    dreadful comparisons – Microsoft tried to create a monopoly – also look up this guy John Davison Rockefeller Sr. (July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937)

  70. tythorn13 Posted on November 1, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Denouncing monopolies while supporting patents, is like denouncing automobiles while supporting trucks.

  71. Anime Wire Posted on January 5, 2019 at 3:38 am

    Patents do not stimulate innovation, moreover there is a lot of intervention by foreign powers e.g and he totally ignores biological factors such as IQ variability etc.

  72. Raj Beekie Posted on January 9, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    One word, CORRUPTION.

  73. Sandy Posted on January 27, 2019 at 6:28 am

    the title should be "Why some nation develop while others don't". I think the talk is very limited in scope. Its seems like patent protection seems to be the road to development. If that were the case then China would have never become what is it, because it simply has no patent laws. There are other factors like demographic dividend, size, export oriented growth etc etc which lead to development not just plain patent protection

  74. Onlyjob Posted on February 8, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Terrible, shallow talk. Bill Gates's "innovations" were mostly about coercing users through monopolising PC markets with pre-installed proprietary operating system – an utterly unethical business. Most of other Microsoft "innovations" are re-branded products acquired from other companies. Phew…

  75. Muhammad Iqbal Posted on February 21, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    It all happens today in my goddamn country Indonesia

  76. Sharmarke Aidarus Posted on February 26, 2019 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you Mr Robinson for your effective speech

  77. kwesi atta Sakyi Posted on April 23, 2019 at 7:05 am

    I think poor countries are poor because they do not have enough economic space on the global markets where they sell their commodities. Also they have weak political institutions.

  78. ahmed wahid Posted on April 23, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Poor are poor because rich countries fight their attempts!

  79. Mohamed Salman Posted on May 27, 2019 at 1:51 am

    Thomas Addison didn't invent the lightbulb…
    And that amongst numerous other mistakes is why I won't find the answer to why nations fail here.

  80. Fredrick Odhiambo Posted on June 23, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    Why Nations Fail – ethnic diversity governed by unitary governments.

  81. Fredrick Odhiambo Posted on June 23, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Politically stable nations tend to be nation states – nations whose ethnicities, race, language, and religion are 80%-99.99% homogeneous.

  82. Nazreen Mohamad Posted on July 5, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    He COMPLETELY ignored the legacy of colonialism and relationship with colonial powers. Many western countries are rich also because of what they plundered from countries that are now considered 'poor' countries.
    Bill Gates ALSO CREATED a monopoly, difference is that it was a natural monopoly. His legal knowledge enabled him to create that natural monopoly. Linux came into being exactly because of Microsoft's monopolistic tendencies.

  83. Der Gorghast Posted on July 21, 2019 at 8:27 am

    TEDx is so postmodern it is sickening…

  84. Der Gorghast Posted on July 21, 2019 at 8:36 am

    This is lecture is common knowledge.