I wrote about the book last July, focusing on the title theme. The course of the last few hundred years gives us plenty of reasons for an upbeat long-term view, in part because a few revolutions have occurred over that time, giving us plenty of, well, plenty.
Ridley, a popular science writer, actually takes a longer view than that. He identifies the source of most progress in trade. He starts the book discussing human prehistory, noting the evidence that Cro-Magnon people traded widely, while Neanderthals did not. This probably explains why we descend from the former, not the latter. The traders won out, out-producing (out-surviving) the more “socialistic” folk with bigger brains.
The ability to trade gave our ancestors a huge comparative advantage — a key economic principle that Ridley ably explains.
Ridley and Hayek share a general outlook, so the award is fitting. It’s also fitting to learn of it during “Hayek Week” — what with the new, “definitive” edition of F.A. Hayek’s classic Constitution of Liberty out, receiving reviews in major papers.
Here’s hoping Ridley continues to echo Hayek’s success in the marketplace of ideas. His recent Wall Street Journal op-ed cheering on “the cheapeners and cost-cutters” (rather than the usual ballyhooed inventors) suggests that he will do just that.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.