If you read this blog you’ve probably heard of Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson’s (AJR) work on development economics. You may even have read their magnum opus (minus Johnson), Why Nations Fail, and if you haven’t then I highly recommend it. They’ve also started a great blog to support the book.
But even better than that, they’ve started engaging in public battles with other major names in the field! The thesis of Why Nations Fail is that the prosperity of nations is largely determined by the quality of their institutions. Jared Diamond, of ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ fame, wrote a largely positive review in the New York Review of Books but made sure to remind us of his own thesis. He spends plenty of time explaining how geography is the underlying determinant of the institutional composition of a nation, thus undermining the work of Acemoglu and Robinson.
They then had a scathing reply to the editor published, which rolls out arguments that they’ve rehearsed many times in their academic sparring with Jeff Sachs. Finally, there is the response from Diamond to their criticisms of his thesis. I won’t ruin it with quotes so click through and read the whole thing for yourself.