The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

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by Matt Ridley
     
 

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Life is getting better—and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down — all across the globe. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone,

Overview

Life is getting better—and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down — all across the globe. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people’s lives as never before. The pessimists who dominate public discourse insist that we will soon reach a turning point and things will start to get worse. But they have been saying this for two hundred years.

Yet Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. Prosperity comes from everybody working for everybody else. The habit of exchange and specialization—which started more than 100,000 years ago—has created a collective brain that sets human living standards on a rising trend. The mutual dependence, trust, and sharing that result are causes for hope, not despair.

This bold book covers the entire sweep of human history, from the Stone Age to the Internet, from the stagnation of the Ming empire to the invention of the steam engine, from the population explosion to the likely consequences of climate change. It ends with a confident assertion that thanks to the ceaseless capacity of the human race for innovative change, and despite inevitable disasters along the way, the twenty-first century will see both human prosperity and natural biodiversity enhanced. Acute, refreshing, and revelatory, The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.

Editorial Reviews

Wray Herbert
…[Ridley] bolsters [his] argument with an impressive tour of evolutionary biology, anthropology, economics, philosophy and world history. His intellectual heroes are Charles Darwin and Adam Smith…This rich analysis shouldn't properly be reviewed until 2110, because only then will we know if Ridley's confidence in human ingenuity is warranted. Futurists don't have a great track record, but let's hope that future generations will review this rose-tinted vision favorably.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Ridley comes to praise innovation's ability to forestall any number of doom and gloom scenarios, everything from climate change to economic catastrophe. While sounding strikingly similar to narrator Anthony Heald, L.J. Ganser keeps a steady reading pace of Ridley's prose that keeps listeners engaged through the more challenging quantified material (statistics, data, lists) and the more nuanced conceptual material. His escalation, speed, deliberation, and pauses faithfully guide listeners through the text and at times improves upon the dry prose. However, Ganser is prone to over-project, and his forceful overemphasis can wear on the listener's attention. A Harper hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 12). (June)
George Gilder
“A superb book…Elegant, learned, and cogent…a far-reaching synthesis of economics and ecology, a triumphant new demarche in the understanding of wealth and poverty…Inspiring.”
Washington Examiner
“A dose of just the kind of glass-half-full information we need right now…A powerful antidote to gloom-n-doom-mongering.”
New York Post
“Ridley’s dazzling, insightful and entertaining book on the unstoppable march of innovation is a refresher course in human history...Great ideas spring up unexpectedly from every direction, with each new one naturally coordinating with others...”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The Rational Optimist will give a reader solid reasons for believing that the human species will overcome its economic, political and environmental woes during this century.”
Los Angeles Times
“A mesmerizing book.”
Sunday Times (London)
“This inspiring book, a glorious defense of our species…is a devastating rebuke to humanity’s self-haters.”
The Guardian
“Original, clever and …controversial”
Washington Post
“A very good book…a rich analysis…Ridley is a cogent and erudite social critic…He bolsters his argument with an impressive tour of evolutionary biology, economics, philosophy, world history.”
John Tierney
“A fast-moving, intelligent description of why human life has so consistently improved over the course of history, and a wonderful overview of how human civilizations move forward.”
Steven Pinker
“A delightful and fascinating book filled with insight and wit, which will make you think twice and cheer up.”
Ian McEwan
The Rational Optimist teems with challenging and original ideas…No other book has argued with such brilliance and historical breadth against the automatic pessimism that prevails in intellectual life.”
Barrett Sheridan
“Ridley eloquently weaves together economics, archeology, history, and evolutionary theory…His words effortlessly turn complicated economic and scientific concepts into entertaining, digestible nuggets.”
Trevor Butterworth
“Invigorating…For Mr. Ridley, the market for ideas needs to be as open as possible in order to breed ingenuity from collaboration.”
Donald Luskin
A fabulous new book... I was so delighted, amused and uplifted by it that I bought a couple hundred copies and sent one to all my clients.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780007267125
Publisher:
Fourth Estate (GB)
Publication date:
03/28/2011

What People are saying about this

Barrett Sheridan
“Ridley eloquently weaves together economics, archeology, history, and evolutionary theory…His words effortlessly turn complicated economic and scientific concepts into entertaining, digestible nuggets.”
Donald Luskin
A fabulous new book... I was so delighted, amused and uplifted by it that I bought a couple hundred copies and sent one to all my clients.
John Tierney
“A fast-moving, intelligent description of why human life has so consistently improved over the course of history, and a wonderful overview of how human civilizations move forward.”
Ian McEwan
The Rational Optimist teems with challenging and original ideas…No other book has argued with such brilliance and historical breadth against the automatic pessimism that prevails in intellectual life.”
Steven Pinker
“A delightful and fascinating book filled with insight and wit, which will make you think twice and cheer up.”
Trevor Butterworth
“Invigorating…For Mr. Ridley, the market for ideas needs to be as open as possible in order to breed ingenuity from collaboration.”

Meet the Author

Matt Ridley is the award-winning, bestselling author of several books, including The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves; Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters; and The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. His books have sold more than one million copies in thirty languages worldwide. He writes regularly for The Times (London) and The Wall Street Journal, and is a member of the House of Lords. He lives in England.

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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth a read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An uplifting and evidence based account of how far we have come and why we should not be whining about the prospects for our future.
GeologyJim More than 1 year ago
Ridley's principal point is that trade and exchange of things (tools and food) opened the door for modern man to evolve from subsistence hunter/gatherer to inventor/innovator. Trading improves the lives of both parties by encouraging each to specialize and innovate. In serial time-slices, Ridley demonstrates how culture and knowledge evolved over the last million years or so to todays marketplace of ideas that continues to improve quality of life worldwide. Not everywhere and not on all occasions, but in aggregate everything gets better through trade, as long as markets are free to reward/punish. This is a very entertaining read and Ridley deftly pulls information together to show relationships and evolutionary trends that may seem novel or unexpected. Lots of reference notes and links in the back will allow you to check facts and sources. What a great way to start the New Year. Buy a copy for a friend or your book club. Lots of discussion will ensue.
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Jared_B More than 1 year ago
This book was a great and thought-provoking read. Unfortunately, this ebook version is rife with errors and bizzare formatting issues thar are distracting and make the book difficult to read. Please fix this!
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RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
Send your inner pessimist packing - along with organic crops and ethanol. That's the contrarian message of Matt Ridley's insightful, entertaining look at humankind's steady progress over the millennia. Ridley dips into biology and economics to support his case that life is good and getting better. His wide-ranging look at humanity's past and future makes it clear that those who long for the good old days just don't realize how rugged hunting and gathering or medieval medical care must have been. Ridley meanders at times, yet, as the title suggests, his book offers a fundamentally optimistic analysis of humankind's ability to solve the planet's problems, even now. getAbstract recommends it to readers seeking a thought-provoking analysis of contemporary issues that doesn't hew to conventional wisdom.
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