We know that all people are different. Each of us differs in quite significant ways from others of our kind. We are all human beings of course but still we are all distinctly different in various ways — in our physical and mental endowments, in our preferences, in our abilities, and so on. There’s variation among us even when we’re part of the same family, not to mention others in our society or the world at large.
What distinguishes us from others of our kind is our nature which boils down to our genes, and also to our nurture. Even siblings differ among themselves because their genetic inheritances differ. That is the basic explanation of why we are all different: we don’t have the same nature and don’t get the same nurture.
So also countries differ from one another. Different countries have different histories, different cultures, different geographies, different endowments of resources, different climatic conditions, etc. And most importantly for our purposes, we note that countries differ in their level of prosperity.
Not all countries are rich. Some are quite rich and others are desperately poor in comparison.
Here’s the question. If we agree that countries differ in their prosperity, what is the one factor that clearly distinguishes countries regardless of any other factors that may or may not be similar?
Meaning, even if you do take into account all other factors — geography, history, culture, climate, endowments — into account and yet you find difference in prosperity between two countries, what is that factor?
I would like you to ponder this question. If you have an answer, please post it in the comments below. We will discuss this question in the course.
UPDATE: I have a follow-up post in which I have given my answer to this question. See Different Rules, Different Countries. The point briefly is that all else being equal, differences in prosperity arise from differences in the rules that countries follow.