9 October 2020

Free Exchange: Johan Norberg on the importance of being open


What do Ancient Rome, Muslim Spain and Song era China have in common?

Military might, sophisticated legal systems or, perhaps, intellectual brilliance?

All of these things played their part in creating the great empire of the past, but the answer is something a little more abstract.


In his latest book the Swedish historian Johan Norberg argues that that every truly successful civilisation is defined by one key ingredient – openness. To new ideas, new people and new technology.

At a time when much of that life-enhancing, economy-expanding openness seems under threat from pandemic panic and populist demagoguery, his optimistic message feels particularly urgent.

Our editor John Ashmore sat down with Johan for to discuss his new book, Open:The Story of Human Progress, and what the pandemic means for the future of trade, innovation and human flourishing.

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John Ashmore is Editor of CapX.