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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 200 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 21st 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Darkcoffee on 06-09-10
Delightful Case for Things Looking Up
An extended argument that human intelligence and the well-being it allows is created, collected, maintained, distributed and extended by trade. Trade is "ideas having sex." Ridley builds his case with point after point then examines all the usual counterexamples and objections, taking them out one by one. It's a wonderful book. Of course it helped that he was preaching to the choir with me. What's most delightful is Ridley's goodhearted skewering of pessimists -- the technological and environmentalist Jeremiahs in particular -- with the most obvious of weaknesses is their flimsy cases. He's almost embarrassed for them. Ridley is a bit repetitive at times, but maintains a wry humor and lighthearted tone throughout, which makes his writing all the more effective. He's a good writer and he's right about everything.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
By Robert F. Jones on 09-15-17
Second time through this book, and even better than the first time I read it. It just all makes so much sense. It was as a result of this book years ago that I generally stopped reading the news and just kept track of general trends. I see examples of pervasive negativity all around me, and as I have assumed more leadership roles it has become obvious that a big part of my job is just putting things into factual historical perspective.
Surprising that this book was written just after the crash of 2008 - lending it even more validity.
One of my top 50 for challenging conventional wisdom and giving me hope.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful