Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have teamed up to write a broad reaching work that combines political science, history, and economics in order to attempt to explain why nations fail.
Rather than relying on tired, outdated, and offensive theories such as geography, culture, or outright ignorance of impoverished populations. The theory advanced in this book is far more simpler, and in my view much more plausible.
The theory states that poor societies are poor because political power is narrowly concentrated in the hands of elites who are more concerned with their own power rather than society at large. Prosperous societies have widely distributed political and economic rights throughout levels of society rather than on a narrow elite.
The authors than go about providing a plethora of evidence for their theory. Thus, the theory is well supported. However, the history tends to wander and shoot off in random directions at points that make it difficult to follow--in spite of the many engaging and occasionally humorous anecdotes.
But it doesn't detract from the overall message of the book that exploitive political and economic institutions are a cause of poor societies. Blending information from different disciplines can be difficult, but I praise the authors for creating a readable, yet comprehensive book that is my favorite of 2012, so far.