The Rational Optimist

The Rational Optimist

How Prosperity Evolves

Book - 2010
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"Ridley writes with panache, wit, and humor and displays remarkable ingenuity in finding ways to present complicated materials for the lay reader." -- Los Angeles Times

In a bold and provocative interpretation of economic history, Matt Ridley, the New York Times-bestselling author of Genome and The Red Queen, makes the case for an economics of hope, arguing that the benefits of commerce, technology, innovation, and change--what Ridley calls cultural evolution--will inevitably increase human prosperity. Fans of the works of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel), Niall Ferguson (The Ascent of Money), and Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat) will find much to ponder and enjoy in The Rational Optimist.

Publisher: New York : Fourth Estate, Harper, 2010.
ISBN: 9780061452055
006145205X
Characteristics: 438 p. ; 24 cm.

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redban Sep 04, 2014

The problem I have with this book is simple: yes, there is a strong case to be made that cultural acceptance of traditional forms of violence (homicide, rape, torture) has improved, evidence of human progress. So if Ridley or Steven Pinker [Better Angels of Our Nature] wants to examine how important human progress is in this context, than I would find that agreeable. However, both authors then start pushing their scope, getting into modern warfare, nuclear proliferation, and climate change. I found Pinker's analysis of nuclear proliferation to be surprisingly paltry, and I'm baffled by Ridley's views on climate change. Both authors support scientific progress, which is admirable, but when they expand their topic to the aforementioned issues, they lose so much more than they gain. And we haven't even gotten into the historical and current state of Finance/Corporatism (although Ridley has to admit failing miserably here after stepping down as chairman of the UK bank Northern Rock, which collapsed).

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delfon
Jun 09, 2014

This is not for the 'Chicken Little's' of the world. Various topical interests are examined in light of a positive frame of mind. References are interesting, and seemingly relevant. Fear mongers won't like this book.
Optimists are genetically disposed; and only 20% of us maybe so disposed; we trend to pessimism, why?'Gusher of Lies': wheat growing 40% faster in carbon enhanced climate, Some data is out of date; for instance sunlight into hydrogen is already a fact.The uselessness of aid ('Dead Aid'; and a success story in Botswana), Oetzi even comes in for a mention, and surprises, he killed, as he was killed.'On Kindness'; on remembering cheaters, biological psychiatry, 'Why we are better off than we think', What makes countries successful: property rights - some suggestion that BC and USA's rules on property confiscation may be self-defeating, without even mentioning these, and so on. All sorts of positive stuff; with supports from CATO, and other diverse entities (so, as with all such to be read with ones salt shaker handy)

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paul1
Nov 06, 2010

This is the type of book everyone should read. It not only proves that the state of humanity has greatly improved, it explains how this prosperity came into being. Ridley is no pollyanna (hence the title), he points out how prosperity can be endangered by zealots of any stripe. His writing flows quite naturally and provides many vivid examples of the dark past contrasting with our bright present and potentially brighter future.

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