Why Nations Fail

I have been reading the book, “Why Nations Fail,” for a couple of weeks. The authors, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson have done extensive research on why some nations thrive and others fail.

The book has introduced me to the phrase, “extraction economy.” In this kind of economy the powerful extract the resources of all but a select few to increase their personal wealth and power.

The authors approach the subject of nation failure from the lens of economics and government. As I read their findings, I think of sin. Nations fail because people in power disregard the guidance of the Ten Commandments.

When we discount God’s instructions, we do so at humanity’s peril.

The two commandments of our study today illustrate the harm that is done when people violate God’s directions for living.

The Destructive Nature of Adultery

The Seventh Commandment: Neither shall you commit adultery (Deuteronomy 5.18).

When President Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, there was a saying about the president: “If he is willing to cheat on his wife, can his word be trusted on anything else?”

Adultery is a breach of trust in one of the most sacred relationships of all.

It is legitimate to ask an adulterous leader, “Why should I trust you if your wife can’t?”

Nations fail because leaders extract whatever they can get from society to fulfill their self-interest. Sex, money, power, technology, reputation, and even a nation’s success is sacrificed on the idol of personal fulfillment.

Jesus looked to the inside condition of humans to reveal the root cause of adultery.

He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5.27-28).

One of my seminary professors explained lust like this.

Suppose my favorite dessert is ice cream. I see you with an ice cream cone in your hand and think, “I really like ice cream.” That is not lust but is only desire.

However, if I see your ice cream cone and make plans to get it for myself, then I have lust in my heart.

The saying, “undressing a person with your eyes,” probably fits the category of lust. The same is true for pornography.

Jesus has a radical answer to the issue of lust.

He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5.29).

Jesus is obviously not recommending the removal of an eye or a hand (Matthew 5.30). Instead, he is emphasizing the importance of avoiding lust and adultery.

Sports stars talk about giving “110% effort” or “doing whatever it takes.” When it comes to the maintenance of one of the most sacred relationships of all, we should be willing to do the same.

Do Not Steal

The Eighth Commandment: Neither shall you steal (Deuteronomy 5.19).

Peter Craigie in his commentary on Deuteronomy states that the kind of stealing in this commandment is “man-stealing.”

Kidnapping, human trafficking, and slavery are three examples of this kind of stealing.

Shoplifting and other forms of theft are stealing, too. For this article, let’s examine the impact of kidnapping, human trafficking, slavery on the decline of nations.

The book, “Why Nations Fail,” tells the story of two Korean brothers. One was a doctor and the other a businessman.

During the Korean War, the doctor was taken by force to North Korea. The other brother remained in the South.

Fifty years later, the two brothers were able to meet for a short visit. The brother who lived in North Korea had no phone, a small apartment, and the ragged coat he was wearing was loaned to him by the government for the visit.

The contrast of the fortunes of the two brothers was dramatic.

The Washington Post in 2018 estimated that 2.6 million North Koreans (one in ten persons) is living in slavery, making that nation the largest slave state in the world.

As the elite of North Korea extracts labor from their citizens for their own purposes, they have made the nation one of the poorest in the world.

God’s principles are like gravity. When we choose to ignore them, we do so at our peril.

Human trafficking steals lives. This violation of the eighth commandment takes place in the world with mammoth proportions. Here are some statistics.

— An estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery.

— Of these, 16 million (64%) were exploited for labor, 4.8 million (19%) were sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labor.

— Human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, according to a report from 2014.

The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:

— $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation

— $34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining, and utilities

— $9 billion in agriculture, including forestry and fishing

— $8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labor

The source for this data is https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/human-trafficking-numbers.

Human trafficking is the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world, only exceeded by arms and drug dealing.

Vote and Pray

The authors of “Why Nations Fail” have historical evidence that the most prosperous nations are those who can remove kings, dictators, and autocrats from office at the ballot box.

In the 1700’s England surged ahead of European neighbors because they replaced the rule of kings by Parliament.

The United States is the greatest example of a prosperous nation, in part, because elections allow us to remove and replace self-serving politicians.

When we go to the polls, we must use the Ten Commandments to help us evaluate the persons who will be leading our government. The Commandments are more than good suggestions but are God’s direction for a successful nation.

I hope readers of my blog will join me in praying for nations that abuse their citizens and cause great harm through self-centered behavior.

We can pray for the United States, but let’s expand our prayers to other nations.

A good prayer is to ask God to align our leaders with his revealed will in the Ten Commandments.

About This Blog

I have focused my thoughts in this blog on the broad scale of nations. Rudy Ross and I take a different tact in today’s YouTube video on the Bob Spradling channel. Please take ten minutes to listen to our message.

I am indebted to Peter Craigie and the authors of “Why Nations Fail” for insights that are in today’s article.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.


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