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The Narrow Corridor

States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty
Narrated by: Stephen Graybill
Length: 23 hrs and 44 mins
Categories: Nonfiction, Politics
4.5 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the authors of the international best seller, Why Nations Fail, a crucial new big-picture framework that answers the question of how liberty flourishes in some states but falls to authoritarianism or anarchy in others - and explains how it can continue to thrive despite new threats.

Liberty is hardly the "natural" order of things. In most places and at most times, the strong have dominated the weak and human freedom has been quashed by force or by customs and norms. Either states have been too weak to protect individuals from these threats or states have been too strong for people to protect themselves from despotism. Liberty emerges only when a delicate and precarious balance is struck between state and society.

There is a Western myth that political liberty is a durable construct, a steady state, arrived at by a process of "enlightenment". This static view is a fantasy, the authors argue; rather, the corridor to liberty is narrow and stays open only via a fundamental and incessant struggle between state and society. The power of state institutions and the elites that control them has never gone uncontested in a free society. In fact, the capacity to contest them is the definition of liberty. State institutions have to evolve continuously as the nature of conflicts and needs of society change, and thus society's ability to keep state and rulers accountable must intensify in tandem with the capabilities of the state. This struggle between state and society becomes self-reinforcing, inducing both to develop a richer array of capacities just to keep moving forward along the corridor. Yet this struggle also underscores the fragile nature of liberty. It is built on a fragile balance between state and society, between economic, political, and social elites and citizens, between institutions and norms. One side of the balance gets too strong, and, as has often happened in history, liberty begins to wane. Liberty depends on the vigilant mobilization of society. But it also needs state institutions to continuously reinvent themselves in order to meet new economic and social challenges that can close off the corridor to liberty.

Today we are in the midst of a time of wrenching destabilization. We need liberty more than ever, and yet the corridor to liberty is becoming narrower and more treacherous. The danger on the horizon is not "just" the loss of our political freedom, however grim that is in itself; it is also the disintegration of the prosperity and safety that critically depend on liberty. The opposite of the corridor of liberty is the road to ruin.

Includes a bonus PDF of the maps and figures from the book.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A work of staggering ambition - aiming to explain why liberty has or has not existed at every moment in time in every geography in the world.... It is chock full of delightful detours and brilliant nuggets.... Smart and timely." (Newsweek)

"A well-written and argued treatise...indispensable reading." (Library Journal starred review)

"Provocative and intuitively correct. An endlessly rewarding book." (Kirkus starred review)

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Hugely disappointing book!

This books tempts readers with an interesting idea based on Hobbes’ Leviathan. However, it is nothing more than a simplistic promotion of political correctness, identity politics and arguments supporting a continued growing state.

The authors do not like Hayek, but anyone tempted to read this book, would do much better reading Hayek and particularly his “The Road to Serfdom”.

The authors pretend to support free market economics, however, they don’t like the price mechanism of free markets and suggests it lacks the “political”element of pricing. This alone undermines the whole fabric of the free market and the authors happily ignores this.

They happily salute the Swedish model and describes elaborately in much too great detail what happened up to 1976 in Sweden, and they do so with great fanfare. Unfortunately, that was the time when Sweden entered its worst economic recession which sacrificed economic growth and jobs. Is that really a model to emulate?

Equally, they celebrate Beveridge’s report produced during the war and implemented after the war, with the eventual unfortunate consequences of economic stagnation resulting from labor unrest and economic stagnation with high inflation, loss of economic competitiveness and devaluations of the £.

Why Examples like these are such models for emulation is very hard to understand.

The American Constitution equally gets an unfavorable mention. In particular the treatment of the slavery issue is superficial and distorted. Slavery is obviously an incredibly issue in America’s history. It is completely,ex and does not benefit from superficiality. Read Sean Wilentz’ book “No Property in Man” in order to get a far more thorough and thoughtful discussion of slavery during the discussion of the Constitution.

The authors completely ignores the need for reforming education and removing the influence of teacher unions in particular in USA. To increase people’s standard of living and improve freedom of choice can only happen with far better education at all educational levels. Unfortunately, this takes time, but the longer society waits the longer and further children will fall behind in the USA.

This book is a waste of time and hugely disappointing.


2 of 7 people found this review helpful