A rock-star economist says it’s much simpler than you think. Daron Acemoglu, M.I.T. Professor, and his collaborator have found that the wealth of a country is most closely correlated with the degree to which the average person shares in the overall growth of its economy. When the poorest and least educated citizens have some shot at improving their own lives—through property rights, a reliable judicial system or access to markets—these citizens do what it takes to make themselves and their country richer. A comparison of related countries bears this out, e.g. the Dominican Republic vs. Haiti (two halves of the same island!) or Thailand vs. Burma (now Myanmar). It has also been true historically that fairly open and prosperous societies can revert to closed and impoverished autocracies. (NY Times Magazine, 3/18/12)