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Cornelson Lecturer Analyzes Topic of His Noted Economics Book "Why Nations Fail"

Listen to the 2013 Cornelson Distinguished Lecture podcast.

Daron Acemoglu, renowned economist and co-author of Why Nations Fail: Origins of Power, Poverty and Prosperity, entertained a capacity crowd in the Lilly Family Gallery as the 2013 Cornelson Distinguished Lecturer.

With co-author James Robinson of Harvard University, Acemoglu attempts to answer a question that has confounded experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others wracked by poverty? In the book, they describe the political economy theory of prosperity they have been researching for 15 years.

"The real challenge for us is to develop an understanding of why societies will not naturally gravitate to institutions that would maximize their growth potential," Acemoglu said. "Relatedly, we want to understand why some nations will be stuck with what we call 'extractive' institutions, which do not generally bring growth and development, while others will open for inclusive institutions, which encourage investment, innovation and technological change, underpinning growth-based prosperity."

The lecture, presented each year by a prominent economist, is the culmination of the Senior Session in Economics, a capstone experience for senior economics majors. The Senior Session is fully endowed through the Cornelson Endowment, in recognition and honor of the Cornelson family.

Prior to the lecture, economics faculty and students honored this year's recipients of the Chaston Award, Amy Pugh '13 and John Skeadas '13. The annual award was established in remembrance of Kelly Chaston, former associate professor of economics, who passed away in October 2010.

"Kelly was everything that a professor at a liberal arts college should be-a scholar, a great teacher, a mentor, and a friend," said Chair and Professor of Economics Fred Smith. "The Chaston Award will now be given every year on the evening of the Cornelson Distinguished Lecture to students who exemplify Dr. Chaston's love of economics, and appreciate how the insights of economics can be used for improving the human condition, whether promoting gender equity, ensuring access to health care, or building social capital across socioeconomic classes and borders."

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.

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2013 Cornelson lecturer Daron Acemoglu

2013 Chaston Award winners (l-r)  Amy Pugh and John Skedas