2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson. New York, NY: Crown.

This book is about the huge differences in incomes and standards of living that separate the rich countries of the world, such as the United States, Great Britain, and Germany, from the poor, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, and South Asia. In this book we’ll study how these patterns reproduce themselves over time and why sometimes they are altered, as they were in England in 1688 and in France with the revolution of 1789. This will help us to understand if the situation in Egypt has changed today and whether the revolution that overthrew Mubarak will lead to a new set of institutions capable of bringing prosperity to ordinary Egyptians. Egypt has had revolutions in the past that did not change things, because those who mounted the revolutions simply took over the reins from those they’d deposed and re-created a similar system. It is indeed difficult for ordinary citizens to acquire real political power and change the way their society works. But it is possible, and we’ll see how this happened in England, France, and the United States, and also in Japan, Botswana, and Brazil. Fundamentally it is a political transformation of this sort that is required for a poor society to become rich. There is evidence that this may be happening in Egypt. Reda Metwaly, another protestor in Tahrir Square, argued, “Now you see Muslims and Christians together, now you see old and young together, all wanting the same thing.” We’ll see that such a broad movement in society was a key part of what happened in these other political transformations. If we understand when and why such transitions occur, we will be in a better position to evaluate when we expect such movements to fail as they have often done in the past and when we may hope that they will succeed and improve the lives of millions.