The Rational Optimist

The Rational Optimist Summary

“A delightful and fascinating book filled with insight and wit, which will make you think twice and cheer up.” — Steven Pinker

In a bold and provocative interpretation of economic history, Matt Ridley, the New York Times-bestselling author of Genome and The Red Queen, makes the case for an economics of hope, arguing that the benefits of commerce, technology, innovation, and change—what Ridley calls cultural evolution—will inevitably increase human prosperity. Fans of the works of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel), Niall Ferguson (The Ascent of Money), and Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat) will find much to ponder and enjoy in The Rational Optimist.

For two hundred years the pessimists have dominated public discourse, insisting that things will soon be getting much worse. But in fact, 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. Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people's lives as never before.

An astute, refreshing, and revelatory work that covers the entire sweep of human history—from the Stone Age to the Internet—The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.

Book Reviews


Nice4 star

Very good45

Ray Fisk

Optimism Can Be Contagious!5 star

A remarkable description of the essential role of exchange and specialization in human progress. Bravo!55


One of the most logical and positive books about mankind you'll ever read.5 star

Matt Ridley has always been of my favorite writers. His Origins of Virtue should be mandatory reading. And now in the Rational Optimist he gives us sound evidence that man is both moral and social and human history has shown a steady progress in improving the quality of life for all. Whenever the human compass points towards more trade and individual freedom progress for all follows.55

Other Books by Matt Ridley

The Red Queen


The Red Queen
4     32
How Innovation Works


How Innovation Works
4.5     19


4.5     17

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