*The Rational Optimist*, the new Matt Ridley book

The subtitle is How Prosperity Evolves and you can buy it here.  The book is due out in May.  Excerpt:

In this book I have tried to build on both Adam Smith and Charles Darwin: to interpret human society as the product of a long history of what the philosopher Dan Dennett calls "bubble-up" evolution through natural selection among cultural rather than genetic variations, and as an emergent order generated by an invisible hand of individual transactions, not the product of a top-down determinism.  I have tried to show that, just as sex made biological evolution cumulative, so exchange made cultural evolution cumulative and intelligence collective, and that there is therefore an inexorable tide in the affairs of men discernible beneath the chaos of their actions.  A flood tide, not an ebb tide.

This book will be adored by fans of Julian Simon.  Ridley is an optimist about the year 2100 and one of the final sections considers whether Africa and climate change will be exceptions to the generally optimistic trends.

Comments

>>Ridley is an optimist about the year 2100<< He was something of an optimist when chairman of Northern Rock, too. Hope 2100 turn out a little better.

Tyler, thanks for the reference. I look forward to reading MR's book. I'm curious about his definition of exchange. I hope you can tell us about it soon.

I have been thinking a lot along similar lines. I kind of feel preempted by this book, but I am glad to see the message getting out. The Enlightenment/Industrial Revolution was a more profound change to the nature of human society than anything that has happened before, including Doug North's First Economic Revolution of agriculture. We changed a vast number of societal processes from stable to exponential, including how we discover new things. Simon's idea of the ultimate human resource - people themselves - is critical to the prosperity of the future. Society in the 1600s would have been recognizable to a person from 1200, however, I can't imagine that society in 2400 would be recognizable to a person living today.

Before he gets all excited, he should read some Oswald Spengler.

This book is wonderful and should also be read in tandem with THE CASE FOR RATIONAL OPTIMISM by Frank S. Robinson. Together the books make a complete intellectual picture.

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