Matt Ridley is one of the best-selling—and best-regarded—science writers on the planet. He wrote recently that in the face of the coronavirus pandemic "we are about to find out how robust civilisation is" and that "the hardships ahead will be like nothing we have ever known." Given that Ridley's best-known book is The Rational Optimist, this is bracing stuff.
Nick Gillespie spoke with Ridley from his home in northern England. His next book, How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom, will be published in May. They discussed why the coronavirus caught Ridley by surprise, when he thinks we'll be able to reopen the world economy, why Brexit is good for Europe, and whether he believes that sustained innovation and progress can take place in authoritarian countries such as China.
"I'm afraid it is necessary to be pretty draconian when you're in the middle of a pandemic," says Ridley, who nonetheless believes that limited government and individual liberty are essential bulwarks to creating a rich and prosperous society. "If you want to preserve freedom…you need to unleash the freedom to innovate, to solve the problem in good times."