The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

by Matt Ridley

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061452055
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/18/2010
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 849,685
Product dimensions: 6.48(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.46(d)

About the Author

Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics, and society. His books have sold over 800,000 copies, have been translated into twenty-seven languages, and have won several awards.

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.”

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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
bookomaniac on LibraryThing 29 days ago
This book leaves me puzzled. It offers a dazzling overview of human history drenched in an optimistic "progression"-approach. Especially the emphasis on the evergrowing and intertwined role of exchange, specialisation and innovation is an eye-opener. For me, he is also rather convincing in his condemnation of the always returning doomthinking, especially on the climate-change issue. But, on the other hand, this is also a radical, ultra-liberal pamphlet. Ridley glorifies in one-sided freemarket retoric, scorches governments and bureaucracies as catastrofical instruments, and he is extremely apologetic about the record of corporations (although he keeps silent about his own role in the Northern Rock-debacle). So, I'm puzzled: this book is breathtaking ("thoughtprovoking") and horrible at the same time. It doesn't leave you indifferent, for sure. Let me conclude: this is a must-read!
VisibleGhost on LibraryThing 29 days ago
In an age of plenty for a sizable portion of the population, why are there so many apocaholics? Heck, I'm one part of the time. Why is it of interest to imagine or predict hundreds of ways that humanity will meet its doom? There are bookshelves loaded with such books, it's a given in most movies, experts abound in bad news, and most individuals have a theory or two on what's going to get us. Are most humans natural pessimists or are the pessimisms justified? Maybe optimism doesn't sell.Ridley, lately of Northern Rock infamy, is an unrepentant optimist. He's a descendant of Adam Smith and Hayak in this regard. Actually, Smith thought there was a limit to growth and equilibrium would be reached in a market economy. Their train of thought is wealth arises from exchange and specialization. Trade and expertise. Because there are no limits to ideas this process can go on for a long time and create immense wealth. The wealth attracts attention from others- power seekers, competitors, empires, governments, and priestly castes- and the process is interrupted or reversed for a time. Still, though exchange and specialization might be suppressed in one area it tends to pop up somewhere else. Back and forth it goes through time and generally ends up raising standards of living in the long run.Hot showers, flushing toilets, media, vacations, travel, transportation, and cheap calories are some of the results. It's estimated that there are upwards of twelve billion consumer products available now. Does this make most of us happy? Hell no! As Paul Krugman, and others, have pointed out, we look at our two BMWs, then notice the neighbors have three, and boy, are we pissed. Ridley actually stays away from the happiness indexes and just focuses on the tangible physical goods and lifestyles we have now. Most of us didn't go to work this week picking cotton with an overseer lashing us with a whip when we had a bad hair moment which resulted in a lackadaisical cotton picking. He admits it still happens in some hellholes but it is not as common as it used to be. Ridley covers several areas including, Malthusian traps, food, inventions, innovation and the two great pessimisms of today: Africa and climate change. He makes and sticks to his case in a clear easy to comprehend style. Most readers will probably find themselves arguing with him a time or two. If you're a dyed in the wool pessimist then you'll likely be arguing with him the whole book or flinging it across or at something or other. If that happens it won't be difficult to find a pessimistic book fix. Those keep on coming like clockwork.
thronm on LibraryThing 29 days ago
A seductive and provocative book that gets you to thinking about the state of our world. At first very convincing about the major thesis that commerce and trade are the keys to progress and a civilized, progressive society but as it moves through historical example after example, you realize he is chosing his examples to fit his obessesive idea rather than exploring the validity of that idea. What seems a fact becomes a cause rather than an exploration. Well worth the reading and the stimulating challenge to conventional pessimism but in the end, a polemic rather than an exploration.
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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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