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Johan Norberg: 10 Reasons To Look Forward To the Future (New Reason Podcast)

From increased life expectancy to reduced levels of violence to greater personal freedom, things are going in the right direction.

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OneWorld Publications

"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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  1. “to greater personal freedom”

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  2. We’ll f7inally learn who sits the Iron Throne.

  3. I recall hearing about an official about 100 years ago who wanted to close the patent office on the grounds that everything that could be invented already had been. For some reason, that popped into my head while reading this article.

  4. i’ve read it. it’s very positive and heavily footnoted which is always appreciated. but he came out of left(ist) field with the carbon tax. no wind up. no “Hey, I’m going to break character for a second to talk about something completely unmentioned throughout the rest of this book”. nothing. just, carbon taxes could fix any real or imagined environmental problems, then change the subject. and IIRC, that part was not footnoted.

    1. make sure that libertarian values linked to tolerance, capitalism, individualism, and optimism are championed and encoded in law and custom

      and don’t forget a carbon tax! that fits under one of those libertarian values mentioned above. tolerance maybe.

      1. The book is sitting in front of me on my desk. Should be an interesting reconciliation on that topic.

    2. The futue belongs to those who believe that government can control the weather if you give it more money.

    3. “no wind up. no “Hey, I’m going to break”

      I thought that the current way of saying it is ‘But Trump is a horrible racist bigot monster!’.

    4. Would you have appreciated a trigger warning, perhaps?

  5. Wait, as a libertarian I’m supposed to be an optimist? I’m libertarian’ing wrong?

    1. No. Cosmos are giddy and overly optimistic. They even invented this term ‘libertarian moment’ and they think it’s a real thing. That’s bordering on delusional.

      Real libertarians are somewhere between cynical and very cynical. We just sit and drink beer and watch the system burn while occasionally making sarcastic comments.

      1. Swap “vodka” for “beer” and you have pretty much described most of UKR, politically, Hyp.

      2. Real libertarians are somewhere between cynical and very cynical. We just sit and drink beer and watch the system burn while occasionally making sarcastic comments.

        What you need is a gram of soma.

    2. Oh shit!, thats what I was doing wrong. This whole time, I was a Liberterrorian.

  6. Are these all the crazy things he’s muttering to himself on the way to the voting booth?

  7. “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.”

    I suspect the nationalism is a reaction to collectivism, as evidenced by the EU, international climate treaties, etc., and the reactionary populism is itself a reaction to various forms of elitism–especially as it pertains to demonizing the white, blue collar, middle class and their faith in individualism.

    In other words, I’m not sure two out of three of those things are bad. If I wanted to point to bad things, I might have gone after collectivism, authoritarianism, and elitism rather than nationalism, authoritarianism, and reactionary populism–since two of the former may be part of the solution to two of the latter.

  8. if we make sure that libertarian values linked to tolerance, capitalism, individualism, and optimism are championed and encoded in law and custom

    And seriously, how hard could that be?

  9. If nationalism is a response crony globalism, is that bad?

    If populism is a reaction to social justice, is that bad?

    1. Yes. You fucking idiot.

  10. “This book is a blast of good sense,” raves The Economist:

    Considering the sort of nonsense currently espoused by the Economist, this recommendation does little to encourage me.

  11. Some random thoughts about this:

    1. “Swedish libertarian”??? I think the odds of actually finding such an animal are somewhere between unicorns and chupacabras.

    2. It is entirely possible that things are looking up for many people in the world, and at the same time, things can be getting worse HERE.

    3. Nationalism is neither good nor bad in and of itself. There are numerous examples throughout history of both good and bad coming from the idea of a unifying concept for a people (be it ethnicity, history, or philosophy).

    4. Tolerance is the same. If by tolerance you mean “I don’t like how you choose to live your life, but I don’t want to pass laws against it.” Then I am sure we all agree with it here. But, as it is practiced by the left today, tolerance has come to mean “I don’t like how you choose to live your life, and we need to forbid that behavior”. When it was done on the right, it used to be called intolerance.

    1. 1. Sweden has a pretty strong Libertarian tradition and movement. Whether you’ve heard of it or not.

      2. Agreed. The world is getting better fast. The US is one of the few places going the other direction.

  12. OT: This weekend my wife had to judge a bunch of high school debates. One thing that came up was that China was working on a program to eventually colonize Mars. (I have no idea how true this actually is, I just know it came up in one of the debates).

    My first thought was: LET THEM AT IT! Let them spend trillions of dollars on trying to send a handful of people to a planet which has no appreciable resources that we know of. And even if it did, the infrastructure to get any of those resources back to Earth would require orders of magnitude more wealth than the resources themselves. A planet with a practically non-existent magnetic field. And no one can question my bona fides when it comes to sci-fi fandom (in all media: literature, movies, TV, even video games etc. Not graphic novels or anime though.)

    Just curious about others’ thoughts on that.

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