Lowering the drawbridge
Two books expound the virtues of open societies, past and future
Open: The Story of Human Progress.
By Johan Norberg.
One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger.
By Matthew Yglesias
It was not just roads that led to Rome. The shipping lanes did, too. By the first century BC,Rome had conquered the entire Mediterranean coastline. Some 90% of its people lived within 15km of the sea, buying corn from Egypt, olive oil from Spain and toga dye from Carthage. The Roman Empire prospered because it was open to trade, people and ideas, says Johan Norberg, a Swedish thinker. Galleys brought “all the crafts that exist or have existed”, as one Greek observer put it. Foreigners could become citizens; a slave’s son could (occasionally) rise to become emperor.
Mr Norberg’s “Open” is one of two new books that offer big ideas about globalisation, past and future. He argues that progress depends on openness, but that this tends to create resistance that sets back the clock. In “One Billion Americans” Matthew Yglesias, a co-founder of Vox (a wonky leftish news outlet), ponders how the United States might evolve if it were much more open to immigrants.