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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves is written by Matt Ridley, a very knowledgeable scientist who has spent a lifetime studying human civilization, societies, and evolution. He's discovered that the rich actually are happier, but not by much, and suggests that if you are 10-times as rich, you are not ten-times as happy. Nevertheless you are somewhat happier overall.
“We should judge wealth not only by money in the bank, but rather we should be also counting the benefits received,” and he explains that if you get free health care, what is the relative value of that? If you get a housing allowance, or are fortunate enough to rent from a landlord under rent control, what is the benefit of that, and how does that attribute to your standard of living, or quality of life.
The book has many themes, it seems to discuss similar issues to “The World is Flat” and “Tipping Point” and even a little “Black Swan” and since it is written by Matt Ridley you know he comes from a evolutionary perspective, and is well studied in human historical migration. He speaks specifically to the reality of billions living with very little, even challenged for water, and the number of people living in less than a dollar a day.
He shows how religious people seem to do better with regards to commerce and capitalism - fairness in buying and selling. He appears to be a capitalist as well, showing how capitalism has done quite well for lifting people out of poverty. He shows how it is the mission of human beings to build a better life for himself and his family, and in this quest we should see future optimism for ecology, economics, and happiness. Improvements in modern first world environment are extremely better today, than they were 50 years ago.
As people have more money, they tend to demand a better quality of air and water, and food. And as the society does more industrialization and commerce in the beginning – things are problematic to a point, then there is a shift.
He discusses Chinese Cities, and Mexico City and India, and how in the future they will clean up their acts, cities, and environment and Matt, shows how this is a natural progression. Matt Ridley gave a great talk in NY City at the New York Academy of Science for Book CSPAN2 TV in May, which you can view on YouTube.