Do you want to know why many countries remain poor despite efforts to improve their economies? British Economic Historian Professor Niall Ferguson (Harvard University) in 2012 gave four “Reith Lectures” (aired on BBC Radio 4) entitled “The Rule of Law and Its Enemies“. His central thesis is that man-made governance institutions are more important than anything else in determining the economic and political outcomes of nations.

He argues that the recent economic decline of the West is a product of the weakening of its Political, Legal, Economic and Civil Society institutions. Poor countries require robust legal frameworks that protect property rights to foster development. Ferguson quotes Peruvian Economist Hernando de Soto who argues this same point in his International Property Rights Index that shows a strong correlation between prosperity and property rights. Ferguson says China has a ceiling on its development because of not fully protecting property rights (they have laws but no Rule of Law).

These brilliant, insightful and thought-provoking but simple to understand lectures (even for laymen) are the best and most informative I have ever heard. I encourage you to listen to them, even if you do not agree with everything.

Part 1: The Human Hive – 19 June 2012

Successive generations have violated the inter-generational Social Contract and governments should be more open in their accounting standards.

Part 2: The Darwinian Economy – 26 June 2012
The true causes of the current global financial crisis, the false conclusions people have drawn and how “more regulation” is in fact the disease it purports to cure.

Part 3: The Landscape of the Law – 3 July 2012
A comparison of legal systems and the problems with the current degenerating systems.

Part 4: Civil and Uncivil Societies – 10 July 2012
The slow death of Civil Society institutions, crowded out by governments.


Reith Lectures episode guide

Niall Ferguson Website

Reith Lecures on BBC Website