Matt Ridley vs. My Most Wrong Belief
By Arnold Kling
I have temporary custody of a draft manuscript of a new book by Matt Ridley. The title of the book is tentative, but the subtitle is “Economic progress and the evolution of the future.” Once the book comes out, it will be a must-read.
The manuscript devastates my most wrong belief, which is that trade is a modern phenomenon, and that previous economic activity consisted mostly of plunder. Although the Ridley manuscript takes this view of Rome, it argues that in that case as well as others trade came first and empire came later.
Findlay and O’Rourke, in Power and Plenty, suggest that hegemony is a precondition for widespread trade. Their example of the Mongols is wrong, according to the Ridley manuscript The Mongols may have helped European trade, but they did not help China.