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I'm reading a book called Why Nations Fail (by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson). I'm only part way through. The authors dismiss weather, geography and culture as possible reasons for why some countries are mired in poverty and a lack of productivity and progress for most of its inhabitants and others are more successful, even happier places to live. They hypothesize that it is the political and economic institutions set up by those who emerge as leaders that create the difference. Countries that, for various reasons, have set in place institutions and policies that provide no incentives for hard work, savings or innovation which do not allow everyone an equal chance to succeed, are mired in misery.
I find this topic fascinating. I've travelled a fair bit, to rich countries and poor, and it is discouraging to discover how difficult it is in some for most inhabitants to pursue their dreams. A study of history tells us that these societies eventually falter and fail. The young or ambitious escape and in some countries the remissions (payments sent home by family employed in richer countries) are the largest source of revenue for the citizens left behind. It is instructive to follow the trail and uncover how these countries evolved to their present state.
The two dystopian novels I have written so far, When Bees Die and A New Premise are set in societies that did not evolve slowly but rather exist in conditions that were imposed, quite quickly, by an authoritarian government in response to a crisis. As in the case in the real world, those in power are reluctant to relinquish it and some few are always benefitting from the status quo.