Show Book List  | More books by Matt Ridley

Reviews elsewhere on the web:
London Book Review
New York Times
New Statesman
Madsen Pirie
Bill Gates

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. info
Paperback 480 pages  
ISBN: 0061452068
Salesrank: 34136
Published: 2011 Harper Perennial
Amazon price $13.41
Marketplace:New from $7.98:Used from $3.37
Buy from info
Paperback 464 pages  
ISBN: 0007267126
Salesrank: 39599
Weight:0.71 lbs
Published: 2011 Fourth Estate (GB)
Amazon price £8.64
Marketplace:New from £6.43:Used from £2.05
Buy from info
Paperback 480 pages  
ISBN: 0061452068
Salesrank: 13527
Weight:0.75 lbs
Published: 2011 Harper Perennial
Amazon price CDN$ 16.19
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 9.14:Used from CDN$ 5.00
Buy from

Product Description

For two hundred years the pessimists have dominated public discourse, insisting that things will soon be getting much worse. But in fact, 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. Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people's lives as never before.

In his bold and bracing exploration into how human culture evolves positively through exchange and specialization, bestselling author Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. An astute, refreshing, and revelatory work that covers the entire sweep of human history—from the Stone Age to the Internet—The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.