The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

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. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people’s lives as never before. 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 two hundred 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 twenty-first 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.

Title:The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780061452055
Format Type:

    The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves Reviews

  • Richard

    I wanted to read this because of the excellent review in the Economist: Getting better all the time: The biological, cultural and economic forces behind human progress .But I started out skeptical....

  • Daniel Lemire

    I just finished Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley. Because I am an overly pessimistic individual, I expected to hate the book.I loved the book.I should point out where I read the book, because context ...

  • Daniel Clausen

    3.2 StarsReview in Short: An insightful, if often crude and narrow, defense of how trade and greater specialization will continue to fuel humanity's progress toward higher living standards and greater...

  • Koen Crolla

    Ridley makes the obvious point that life is now better than it has been at any point in humanity's past by virtually any metric, even metrics not designed specifically to make this point (like GDP), f...

  • Andrew

    Every so often you come across a book that causes you to reevaluate the way you view the world. The Rational Optimist is definitely one of those books. Personally, I think this may be one of the most ...

  • Andrew

    Ridley's books on genetics and evolution are clear, well-supported books on the topic, so I was looking forward to his newest piece of non-fiction. Instead it is a conflation of economics, anthropolog...

  • Mehrsa

    I wanted to like this, but it was filled with total nonsense so I couldn't. Some of it is mildly interesting. None of it is new. And most of the verifiable stuff is distorted into his markets-can-do-n...

  • Steve

    Another Goodreads member, Helen Grant, wrote a scathing review of The Rational Optimist:http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...I found it particularly offensive and hypocritical that she took Ridley ...

  • Max

    3.5. I loved the first two chapters of this. After that, it got steadily worse and I ended up skipping the last 100 pgs. The premise is that human culture is very adept at innovating and solving probl...

  • Douglas Wilson

    Very valuable read overall. Apart from the secularism and the evolutionary assumptions, Ridley does a great job of describing things in a way that counteracts the very common and insistent cultural pe...