“There is always this risk that fear will become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Johan Norberg about the current political moment when nationalism, authoritarianism, and reactionary populism seems to be on the rise in Europe and North America. “This is exactly the moment that we have to talk about what people can do when they are free.”
Progress: Ten Reasons To Look Forward To the Future, the new book by the Swedish libertarian, is like a hot drink on a cold winter’s day: nourishing, energizing, fortifying.
In chapters covering topics such as food, sanitation, life expectancy, literacy, the environment, and equality, Norberg shows how human progress has been proceeding apace for the past century—and how we can ensure its continuation if we make sure that libertarian values linked to tolerance, capitalism, individualism, and optimism are championed and encoded in law and custom.
Grounded in a deep respect for and knowledge of history, economics, and policy, Progress is not simply a persuasive analysis or current trends but a desperately needed one in pessimistic world hell-bent on zero-sum thinking. “This book is a blast of good sense,” raves The Economist:
Norberg unleashes a tornado of evidence that life is, in fact, getting better. He describes how his great-great-great-great grandfather survived the Swedish famines of 150 years ago. Sweden in those days was poorer than Sub-Saharan Africa is today. “Why are some people poor?” is the wrong question, argues Mr Norberg. Poverty is the starting point for all societies. What is astonishing is how fast it has receded. In 1820, 94% of humanity subsisted on less than $2 a day in modern money. That fell to 37% in 1990 and less than 10% in 2015.
In a new Reason Podcast, Norberg, a senior fellow at the Cato Insitute, talks with Nick Gillespie about the ideas, attitudes, policies, and institutions that will make sure future generations are born into a world that is vastly better than the one we live in today.
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