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Matt Ridley

The Rational Optimist

Doom and Gloom are ever in the news. The world in going downhill fast, and only drastic action now will prevent disaster - or maybe it's already too late. Matt Ridley has a different opinion. In the The rational optimist: how prosperity evolves he argues that our wellbeing has improved greatly over the centuries, and that there's no reason to think that it won't continue to do so.

At the base of Ridley's argument is the benefit of trade, or 'ideas having sex' if you look at it from a different point of view. He claims that when humans started to trade is when they started on the road to becoming modern humans, and that trade has been benefiting humankind ever since. He also points out how standards of living invariably drop when governments decide to manage their people's affairs too closely. As for those who predict disaster - well Ridley gives plenty of examples of similar predictions in the past which have invariably turned out to be wrong.

It's a persuasive argument, but I felt that Ridley's seemed too keen to trust to the free market, and didn't leave any space for the careful deliberation which is necessary to make sure we are on the right track. For instance he criticises George Orwell and Aldous Huxley despite the fact that their message seems to be the same as his - a warning about too much state intervention. They're pessimistic and so must be wrong.

In summary, the book is well worth reading, but don't let it stop you thinking things out for yourself.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 480 pages  
ISBN: 0061452068
Salesrank: 10271
Weight:0.75 lbs
Published: 2011 Harper Perennial
Amazon price $12.30
Marketplace:New from $7.76:Used from $3.99
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 464 pages  
ISBN: 0007267126
Salesrank: 42392
Weight:0.71 lbs
Published: 2011 Fourth Estate
Amazon price £10.68
Marketplace:New from £5.60:Used from £4.22
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 480 pages  
ISBN: 0061452068
Salesrank: 36108
Weight:0.75 lbs
Published: 2011 Harper Perennial
Amazon price CDN$ 16.19
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 14.24:Used from CDN$ 9.99
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Product Description

“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.