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Faculty Book

The Narrow Corridor

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson  |  September 2019

States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty

From the authors of the international bestseller Why Nations Fail, a crucial new big-picture framework that answers the question of how liberty flourishes in some states but falls to authoritarianism or anarchy in others–and explains how it can continue to thrive despite new threats.

Liberty is hardly the “natural” order of things. In most places and at most times, the strong have dominated the weak and human freedom has been quashed by force or by customs and norms. Either states have been too weak to protect individuals from these threats or states have been too strong for people to protect themselves from despotism. Liberty emerges only when a delicate and precarious balance is struck between state and society...

Today we are in the midst of a time of wrenching destabilization. We need liberty more than ever, and yet the corridor to liberty is becoming narrower and more treacherous. The danger on the horizon is not “just” the loss of our political freedom, however grim that is in itself; it is also the disintegration of the prosperity and safety that critically depend on liberty. The opposite of the corridor of liberty is the road to ruin.


About the Authors:

Daron Acemoglu is the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT. In 2005 he received the John Bates Clark Medal, given to economists under age forty judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge, in 2012 he was awarded the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in economics for work of lasting significance, and in 2016 he received the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in economics, finance, and management for his lifetime contributions.

James A. Robinson, a political scientist and economist, is one of nine University Professors at the University of Chicago. Focused on Latin America and Africa, he is currently conducting research in Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Haiti, and Colombia, where he has taught for many years during the summer at the University of the Andes in Bogotá.