2. Uzbekistan: Forced labor
Coercion is a surefire way to fail. Yet, until recently, at least in the scope of human history, most economies were based on the coercion of workers -- think slavery, serfdom, and other forms of forced labor. In fact, the list of strategies for getting people to do what they don't want to do is as long as the list of societies that relied on them. Forced labor is also responsible for the lack of innovation and technological progress in most of these societies, ranging from ancient Rome to the U.S. South.
Modern Uzbekistan is a perfect example of what that tragic past looked like. Cotton is among Uzbekistan's biggest exports. In September, as the cotton bolls ripen, the schools empty of children, who are forced to pick the crop. Instead of educators, teachers become labor recruiters. Children are given daily quotas from between 20 to 60 kilograms, depending on their age. The main beneficiaries of this system are President Islam Karimov and his cronies, who control the production and sale of the cotton. The losers are not only the 2.7 million children coerced to work under harsh conditions in the cotton fields instead of going to school, but also Uzbek society at large, which has failed to break out of poverty. Its per capita income today is not far from its low level when the Soviet Union collapsed -- except for the income of Karimov's family, which, with its dominance of domestic oil and gas exploration, is doing quite well.