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The Rational Optimist Audiobook

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

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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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  •  
    Matthew Ottawa, ON, Canada 05-29-10
    Matthew Ottawa, ON, Canada 05-29-10 Member Since 2015

    Avid audiobook addict!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent book!"

    I found it thoroughly interesting and enjoyable. Unlike many scientists, this author is actually a pretty decent writer.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan Bath, Virgin Islands (U.S.) 02-23-13
    Alan Bath, Virgin Islands (U.S.) 02-23-13
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    "An antidote to the modern disease of pessimism"

    Beautifully written, accessible and lively account of the underlying factors that have governed human development, the factors that seek to undermine it and why we have cause for optimism about our future.

    This is a wide-ranging book which uses economic, historical and biological evidence to cast doubt on the perpetual doom-mongers that dominate popular discourse.

    A fundamental strength of this book is that it explains the mechanism underpinning growth, innovation and prosperity. Few people have a grasp of this mechanism and, so he argues, they underestimate its ability to improve our well-being and argue for policies which harm or undermine its operation.

    This is not a simplistic ideological book of the Right. In fact, he is critical of some aspects of capitalism and envisions a future world that follows Marx's principle of 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their need'. An enlightening and thought-provoking book.

    The only disappointment was the narration. There were some shockingly bad mis-pronouncations which seemed to suggest that the narrator knew nothing or cared little about what he was reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Park City, UT, United States 02-18-12
    Jim Park City, UT, United States 02-18-12 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    Steve Jacobs New York, NY 06-11-11
    Steve Jacobs New York, NY 06-11-11 Listener Since 2009
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    "Absolutely fantastic"

    Like another reviewer I've listened to it twice because I love it that much. It's clear, rational, and really thought provoking.

    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
  •  
    Jake Port Hueneme, California, United States 12-02-14
    Jake Port Hueneme, California, United States 12-02-14
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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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ulianna Chorny 07-18-17 Member Since 2016
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    "Waste of time"

    With a conclusion that coal is better than renewable energy this book dumbfounded me. It has a clear agenda to prop up the status quo and justify corporations doing what they wish. The author admits to being involved in the banking crash.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Heber City, UT 06-09-17
    Amazon Customer Heber City, UT 06-09-17 Member Since 2007
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    "You will see the world with optimism!"

    Thoughtful, insightful, engaging. I see the world now through more optimistic eyes. The future will be far better than we can even imagine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Fullerton, California, United States 05-30-17
    Mark Fullerton, California, United States 05-30-17 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent arguments, even with minor flaws"

    This is a valuable resource for discovering why much of society keeps improving even while intellectual elites decry the very capitalism and technology that is the source of the improvements.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Russel Lyman 04-27-17
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    "In a word, sublime."

    This is a story that everyone needs to hear. After being told, for all your life, that the world is coming to its end, that the end is nigh; it's refreshing to discover that it is only just beginning. This is a diatribe of optimism if there ever was one. If you want a vision of where we came from, how we got here, and where we are going, while being optimistic about our prospects as a species, this is that vision.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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