If you think happiness is realistic optimism then this article should be of interest to you…

If you think happiness is realistic optimism then this article should be of interest to you…

As the author of this article and reviewer of Ridley’s book states quite clearly, there may well be some flaws in Matt Ridley’s arguments. But that being said, happiness around the world needs some realistic optimists so surely we can take something of value from his thesis?

Read on and form your own thoughts…

By Liz Else for New Scientist

I’M ON the way to a smart hotel in Soho, London, to meet Matt Ridley, the aristocratic zoologist-turned-journalist who has become one of the UK’s foremost science writers. He has a new book out with the daring title The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves.

I use the word “daring” advisedly. Ridley’s message is one of undiluted optimism: the world is getting better and better, it has been doing so for hundreds of years, and will continue to do so. Nothing stands in his way, not even global climate change, which he dismisses in his book as one of the “two great pessimisms of today”.

As I walk, I can’t help but notice depressing newspaper placards everywhere. We are in the middle of a grim financial crisis that will affect the lives of millions for decades – and the Matt Ridley I am about to meet was the well-paid non-executive chairman of Northern Rock bank, where the signs of financial collapse were first spotted in the UK.

I’m wondering why someone so near the eye of that storm, who faced a grilling from the UK government’s House of Commons Treasury Select Committee over the bank’s strategy, is preaching optimism. The only obstacle my curiosity faces is that a condition of this interview is not to ask “direct” questions about Northern Rock, which gets only a passing mention in his book.

In person, Ridley is exactly the tall, charming Old Etonian everyone told me he would be…

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