Sunday, January 3, 2010

Institutions, Incentives and Prosperity

M.I.T. professor Daron Acemoglu has an engaging opinion piece in Esquire (HT to Arts & Letters Daily). One intriguing aspect is a graphic that compares "How Governments Affect the Wealth of Nations." And while I wish it were more interactive - perhaps showing details for more countries as you mouse over them - it tells makes a convincing case.

My only complaint with the article is that I wish it was longer. (I suspect the limitation was due to space.) For example, I would like more explanation of his comparison of Nogales, a city on the U.S.-Mexican border that is split by that border. While I have no doubt that differing institutions lead to differing incentives, I would like to know Acemoglu's assessment of how quickly an improvement in the institutional structure on the Mexican side would take effect. I think many institutions need time to become ingrained in a society before they have a full effect. Otherwise, the members may be reluctant to change their behavior for fear of another, counter-veiling change.

I welcome your thoughts.

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