The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.)

by: Matt Ridley (0)

“A delightful and fascinating book filled with insight and wit, which will make you think twice and cheer up.” — Steven Pinker

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.

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.

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.

The Reviews

You had better be up at the graduate level in economics, engineering and a few other disciplines, but if you are, this is a very informative analysis. It should be required reading for the staff of all politicians who would then translate for their boss into the comic book level version. Maybe we would avoid all the insanity we are exposed to these days. I left the news media out since they are too ignorant to get this information. There are times when Mr Ridley gets a bit repetitious, but I will forgive him since the analysis is so good. Already reading some of his other works.

I was in a horribly depressed state in 2012, fearing the world was going to hell, wishing the Mayan prophecy would be fulfilled. Then a friend of a friend recommended this book. It turned my whole mindset around and gave me reason to hope and continue working for positive change. One sentence summary: despite how bad everything seems, the objective reality is that things have been getting better and better for just about everybody in every way since humanity emerged. I came away from this book convinced that things are going to be okay and that there is no problem humanity can't overcome.

This is one of the top 2 books I've read about why humanity is at our current point, and what our future is likely to be. This is the perfect companion to Guns Germs and Steel by Diamond. Diamond's book lays out the geographical, weather and biological reasons why food and other resources were concentrated enough to build up population density, which led to acceleration of civilization. Ridley's book takes the next step: how did human behavior take advantage of those resources? Why did some countries accelerate more rapidly (e.g., England) while others stagnated in poverty (e.g., early China)? Ridley's answer is innovation and free trade. The most impressive parts of his book are (1) his clearly-stated thesis chapter-by-chapter; and (2) his meticulously-researched fact base to support his conclusions. These are important insights for political decisions, and I wish every voter would read this book.

Any one interested in learning more about how the world really works, needs to read this book. I have supported environmental improvements for many years now including protection of ocean and terrestrial life systems and carbon reduction. After reading this book, I have realized I have become very one sided in my views and missing the "big picture" perspective. While I still put much effort into preserving nature, this author has helped me increase my perspective and to become more of a "rational optimist" myself.

This book is a beautifully reasoned explanation of what makes the human race different from the animals, how this leads to continuous innovation, and how, (if we don't foul it up, which we surely still can), it can lead to a vastly more prosperous world for all of us (particularly the parts that are now poor) in the coming century. Here, briefly, are a few of his central ideas, which are all supported by the evidence he presents. These work together to support his central thesis.Specialization is good.Trade is good (and we are the only species that trades).Together, specialization and trade enable us to efficiently use our talents in the best way to get the best of what others produce.Self-sufficiency leads to poverty, because no one can master all of the skills and have all the tools necessary for anything above a subsistance living.Cross-fertilization of ideas is necessary. Rarely if ever does one invent something entirely on his own. Inventions come from putting together ideas others have had in novel and unique ways. (As a patent holder, I can attest to this.)Use of energy from other than human beings is what allowed the effective end of slavery (Yes,it still exists, but is criminal nearly everywhere).The more compact the form of energy, the better for the environment.The higher the real per-capita income, the longer and better people live.In the next century, real growth will allow us to deal with any ill effects from global climate change, and lift Africa out of poverty, if we but act reasonably intelligently.I don't have the book in front of me just now, so I may have left something out. But I assure you, Matt Ridley did not. Get it, read it, and be sure to look at the graph at the beginning of each chapter.

Love the cover! It really caught my eye. Then the title because I saw it as a reflection of my personality. The author does a great job in stating facts, history, and data. This book almost reads like a history book, while also having philosophical view points("Be grateful for medicine, technology, modern could be worse"). I love the positive outlook and small humors within this book. It encourages you to read on. Can't wait to read more!

I expected some things from this book, but was delighted and surprised many times. As I started reading I felt conflicted, but I was still very curious and withheld my own biases as much as I could, so I continued to read. By the end of the book I felt that the author made a completely convincing argument, and that I couldn't ignore what I just learned. Do I feel rationally optimistic now? Absolutely! :-)I read the Kindle edition so keep in mind that the citations are extensive and are in the last 30% of the book.

An introduction to economic thinking and economic history that surpasses any other book for lay audiences. Other introductions to economics (e.g., Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson") dive straight into neoclassical concepts or common fallacies (e.g., the broken window fallacy) while not always explaining the underlying reasoning for these concepts, such as what wealth is and where it comes from. Ridley's work does a great job of focusing on these underlying concepts while telling the story of the development of civilization along the way. The Rational Optimist is now my go-to recommendation to readers who want to learn economics for the first time.

This book has taken one idea - that it is trade that makes the world go 'round - and written everything about it that one can think of on the subject of "trade". I now have an entirely different view of the history of the world and of what makes it tick. This is an intelligent book that hit me where I most needed to be hit. I frequently quote concepts from this book when confronted by those who are way too overly enmeshed in today's chaos. I always knew that modern thought was awry, and this book has helped me have a counter-view that feels much more comfortable.

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.)
⭐ 4.6 💛 1607
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paperback: $14.79
hardcover: $31.11
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