The Narrow CorridorThe Narrow Corridor
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The Narrow Corridor

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James A. Robinson

To gain liberty, societies must pass through a narrow corridor, where a balance between society and state is created. If the state has too much authority, it becomes a Despotic Leviathan that subjugates society; if it has too little power, it becomes an Absent Leviathan that is unable to collect taxes, settle conflicts, or deliver services. The ideal state is the Shackled Leviathan, defined as a mobilized community that limits the authority of the government so that it can carry out its duties. Even while Despotic Leviathans can experience some economic progress, only Shackled Leviathans can enjoy lasting freedom and prosperity.

hashtagsocial-life
hashtagworld-history
hashtageconomics
hashtagsocial-science
hashtagpolitical-science
clock11 min
bite5 Bites
target5 Insight

What's it about?

The Narrow Corridor (2019) draws on narratives from many eras of history to address the question of why some nations have liberty whereas others do not. Through examples ranging from the ancient Sumerian city Uruk to Revolutionary America, China in the 1950s, and Argentina today, it analyzes under which conditions governments and citizens thrive together as well as the consequences of failing to do so.

Book summary

To gain liberty, societies must pass through a narrow corridor, where a balance between society and state is created. If the state has too much authority, it becomes a Despotic Leviathan that subjugates society; if it has too little power, it becomes an Absent Leviathan that is unable to collect taxes, settle conflicts, or deliver services. The ideal state is the Shackled Leviathan, defined as a mobilized community that limits the authority of the government so that it can carry out its duties. Even while Despotic Leviathans can experience some economic progress, only Shackled Leviathans can enjoy lasting freedom and prosperity.

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To reach liberty, one must walk through a narrow corridor in which state and society balance each other out.

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A society can’t be free without a powerful central government.

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The ancient Athenians achieved liberty through the empowerment of society to balance the power of the state.

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Some cultures are trapped in an Absent Leviathan due to the cage of norms.

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The Red Queen effect is flawed and complex.

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