The Rational Optimist

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The Rational Optimist
How Prosperity Evolves
AuthorMatt Ridley
CountryUnited States
Publication date
18 May 2010
Media typePrint (Hardcover)

The Rational Optimist is a 2010 popular science book by Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature. The book primarily focuses on the benefits of the innate human tendency to trade goods and services. Ridley argues that this trait, together with the specialization linked to it, is the source of modern human civilization, and that, as people increasingly specialize in their skill sets, we will have increased trade and more prosperity.[1]


Bill Gates praised the book for its key ideas on the importance of trade and the excessive pessimism prevalent in our society. Gates challenged the book's stance against international aid, raised questions about the author's expertise in discussing climate change, and suggested that it downplays the potential for global catastrophic risks.[2] Ricardo Salinas Pliego praised the book as a defence of free trade and globalisation.[3] Michael Shermer gave the book positive reviews in Nature[4] and Scientific American[5] before going on to present similar ideas in conference talks, and writing The Moral Arc partly in response. David Papineau praised the book for refuting "doomsayers who insist that everything is going from bad to worse".[6]

George Monbiot criticised the book in his Guardian column.[7] Critics of the book say it fails to address wealth inequality, and other criticisms of globalization.[8][9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Getting better all the time". The Economist. 13 May 2010.
  2. ^ Bill Gates (30 Nov 2010). "The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves".
  3. ^ Ricardo B. Salinas (9 Dec 2012). "'The Rational Optimist': Review". Huffington Post.
  4. ^ Michael Shermer (20 May 2010). "Science, freedom and trade". Nature. 265 (7296): 294–295. doi:10.1038/465294a.
  5. ^ Michael Shermer (1 May 2010). "When Ideas Have Sex".
  6. ^ David Papineau (13 June 2010). "The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley". The Observer.
  7. ^ George Monbiot. "Matt Ridley's Rational Optimist is telling the rich what they want to hear". The Guardian.
  8. ^ William Easterly (11 June 2010). "A High-Five for the Invisible Hand". New York Times.
  9. ^ Colvile, Robert (14 June 2010). "The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley: review". Retrieved 27 July 2018 – via
  10. ^ "The Rational Optimist, By Matt RidleyPandora's Seed, By Spencer". Archived from the original on 2022-06-18. Retrieved 27 July 2018.

External links[edit]