Ferguson places the root cause of the decline on the weakening of four key institutions: the social contract, government regulation of free markets, the rule of law, and civic associations. He asserts, but spends little time proving, that the ascendency of Western economies over Asian, Mideastern, and African countries is due to the early development of these institutions and their continued strength over extended periods of time. Now that these institutions have ossified and decayed, the economies have as well, but again, Ferguson spends little time fixing the point of the decline and positing the mechanism for the correlation.
I would find his argument more compelling if he made it more cohesively in a full-length treatment, and backed it by correlated variables in the data. But if you read this like the lectures it was based on, you'll find it of interest and at least compelling if not conclusive.
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