Why do some societies maintain institutions that cause economic backwardness? In their seminal 2006 article, “Economic Backwardness in Political Perspective” in the American Political Science Review, MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard economist James Robinson suggested that many rulers have calculated that it’s better to keep their people in poverty than risk losing the privileges of political power. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey analyzes a new study that strongly bolsters this sad conclusion.