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The Rational Optimist Audiobook

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Life is getting better 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.
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Publisher's Summary

Life is getting better 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 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.

©2010 Matt Ridley (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

What Members Say

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Performance
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  •  
    Jake Port Hueneme, California, United States 12-02-14
    Jake Port Hueneme, California, United States 12-02-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Good analysis mixed with libertarian rants"

    Ridley makes the very important point that the modern world is fundamentally built on trade and the specialization of labor. This idea can often be overlooked. Many people seem to think that we would be better off doing everything ourselves. Ridley shows that this is deeply misguided. However, I agree with William Easterly's review in that there are numerous rants throughout the book that don't really advance any idea and instead chafe otherwise sympathetic listeners. This book could've been a lot better. I was hoping this book would be a nice complement to Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature but it paled in comparison to Pinker's rigor and depth.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Jim Park City, UT, United States 02-18-12
    Jim Park City, UT, United States 02-18-12 Member Since 2014
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    "innovation and entrepreneurship lead to prosperity"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    That book brought me to a revelation. He points out how mankind is unique in that we continuously build upon and leverage knowledge of past generations to in effect improve our standard of living. He also points out how great innovations most commonly come not from scientists but from entrepreneurs who look at existing processes or methods and revise, combine, etc to develop new tools and technologies. The revelation is this. Despite our very serious debt problems, I think that the next couple of decades will likely actually bring an unprecedented upswing in opportunity and prosperity (in particular in the US where business friction is actually the lowest). The internet is still quite new. When I started college, uvm still had card catalogs in the library! The effort required to find information was absurd. The access that people now have to information and accumulated wisdom of past generations is phenomenal. It’s an explosion. Information and knowledge are the fuel for innovation. There’s a lot of fuel and there’s a lot of innovation coming.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rudi hoffman 08-26-10 Member Since 2015
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    "I loved this book!"

    Wow...what a mind! Ridley, darn his hide, has written the book I wanted to write! Observations and data abound about how life is simply BETTER for most sentient creatures than it has ever been on planet earth. While far from naive, Ridley understands that current abiities to TRADE and SPECIALIZE are the keys to prosperity. The sections on environmental policies and the astounding level of wrong headedness in the "green" movement are worth the price of the book. Counterintuitive, reasonable, rational, articulate...Ridley may change your mind about what it means to be alive in the 21st century. And about how "green" basic, but wrong, ideas like eating local, renewable resources, and biofuels are.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MATTHEW 01-04-16
    MATTHEW 01-04-16 Member Since 2011

    Councilor Flynn

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    "Great new view of reality"

    Enjoyed listening to how trade and cheap energy has made life better for everyone. This was filled with great nuggets of information.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pieter Pretoria 11-10-15
    Pieter Pretoria 11-10-15

    South African living in Australia, love books, travel history. Favourite fiction: The Ice Limit. Favourite History: The Civil War.

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    "An optimist, but hardly rational."
    Would you try another book from Matt Ridley and/or L. J. Ganser?

    Decidedly not.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Something rational


    Have you listened to any of L. J. Ganser’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I liked the narration, its rational :)


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Dissapointment.


    Any additional comments?

    To put rational and religion in the same narrative is brave. If that religion is evolution, its beyond brave. This is a book about history. Ancient history. Most likely fictitious history. When anybody talks "rationally" about the lifestyle of Aboriginals 60 000 years ago, African 57 000 years ago etc, he has lost the plot. He is on a "walkabout" though a fairy tale, so absolutely fictitious, unlikely, unprovable and... pointless.I was hoping to learn something about the bright future that we all seem to dread. I was hoping someone has reason to believe the doom-sayers are wrong, that the world in not on the brink of disaster, that the financial system personal liberty and healthy food is not a moment lost in history.I confess, this is one of very few Audio books, I have been unable to finish. For its lack of realism and relevance is confounding.If you are looking for optimism, read another book. If you hope to find something likely to be truthfull or rational,. buy another book.

    Buy another book anyway.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jirko 10-22-15
    Jirko 10-22-15 Member Since 2010
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    "Excelent!!!!!!"

    This book shall be obligated reading for every politician before taking the office and also each student before receiving the degree!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Johne 09-21-15
    Johne 09-21-15
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    "Essential"

    This book is essential to who wants to understand our society in a critical and optimistic view. Great lecture!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Selina Rifkin 07-06-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Almost perfect..."
    Would you listen to The Rational Optimist again? Why?

    I'm already on my second listen. There is a lot of data to absorb that I want to be able to share as needed.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    How much we just hate good news!


    Any additional comments?

    One thing he got wrong was about farming methods. While I agree he may have a point about organic industrial not being efficient, its worth noting that that particular niche in the market was created by consumer demand. In fact, traditional mixed farms produce far more food per acre than do industrial farms.

    This in no way negates the central theme of the book in that things are getting better. Mixed use farming, and biodynamic growing methods are increasing because consumers desire this product and because can produce food on land that might otherwise be very difficult. Efficiency and productivity are increasing to the point where the farmers can feel free to take time off!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dominik 05-14-15
    Dominik 05-14-15
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    "Obviously revolutionary!"
    Where does The Rational Optimist rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The book ranks among 5 best reads on my list of economic titles.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Rational Optimist?

    No single moment can be described as best. The whole book is slowly taking on the the well known economic facts/theories and show them from evolutionist perspective. What is remarkable about this book is that the evolutionist point of view is usually more easy to understand and better explains the observed relationships/outcomes/interconnections in the economy.


    Have you listened to any of L. J. Ganser’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This one seems to be better.


    If you could give The Rational Optimist a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Evolutionary revolution in economics.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marc 04-02-15
    Marc 04-02-15
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    "Kinda boring when I agree with everything"

    If you aren't familiar with how free trade makes both sides better off or with world statistics , read this book.

    It's also way too much about history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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