Rational Optimist

  • by Matt Ridley
  • Narrated by L J Ganser
  • 13 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Samuel Johnson Prize Shortlist Nominees 2011
Over 10,000 years ago, there were fewer than 10 million people on the planet. Today there are more than six billion, and 99 per cent of whom are better fed, better sheltered, better entertained, and better protected against disease than their Stone Age ancestors.
The availability of almost everything a person could want or need has been going erratically upwards for 10,000 years and has rapidly accelerated over the last 200 years: calories; vitamins; clean water; machines; privacy; the means to travel faster than we can run, and the ability to communicate over longer distances than we can shout. Yet, bizarrely, however much things improve from the way they were before, people still cling to the belief that the future will be nothing but disastrous.
In this original, optimistic book, Matt Ridley puts forward his surprisingly simple answer to how humans progress, arguing that we progress when we trade and we only really trade productively when we trust each other.
The Rational Optimist will do for economics what Genome did for genomics and will show that the answer to our problems, imagined or real, is to keep on doing what we've been doing for 10,000 years - to keep on changing.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Could have been even better

This is a great subject - why we should be optimistic about the future, after all, the human race has not done too badly so far, from hot baths to antibiotics - and there is much to enjoy in this book. I was particularly amused by the section that reviewed calamities that never happened (e.g. acid rain, Y2 bug, Malthusian starvation). There is also a serious and thoughtful message about eco-friendliness and 'green' politics: technology and going forward may be a better solution than trying to put the clock back to an idyllic rural past that never really did or can exist. Green policies, driven by emotions, can lead to mistakes and errors (e.g. the disaster of bio-fuels and the folly of wind farms). However, I also found the book rambled a bit and would be improved by a good edit. Also, some of the material seemed a bit derivative – but it was possibly just out of date, since the book was written in 2008. I have read several books in recent years - Pinker's 'Better Angels' and 'Why Nations Fail' that cover many of Ridley's points, but a do a better job.

Narration: Awful! Matt Ridley mentions in the book that he 'grew up in London in the 1970s' He does not, therefore, have a grating American accent. I could not get over this contradiction. I like it when the author reads - Tony Blair, George Bush, Sarah Palin, Christopher Hitchens - but if you don't have the skills to do that then get somebody who sounds like the author would. Am I bigoted to want that?
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- Judy Corstjens "Judith Corstjens Author of: Xtensity, Why 5% of Dieters Succeed; Storewars: The Battle for Mindspace and Shelfspace; Strategic Advertising"

Optimism makes sense

A book that will challenge and change your attitudes and opinions. Refreshing, forthright, and above all encouraging. All politicians should read it, but they won't dare to espouse it. Most people are 'part smart' and this book goes to the heart of so many issues. It takes a positive view of the world and the future, and is an antidote to the relentless pessimism we are being fed most of the time.
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- Peter Kettle

Book Details

  • Release Date: 27-05-2010
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited