Thomas Hobbes, a pillar of the Age of Enlightenment, famously predicted that an unrestrained birthrate would overpopulate and impoverish the world. In his book "Leviathan" he warned that human life everywhere would become "nasty, brutish, and short."
Hobbes was wrong, not for want of reason, but because he failed to take into account how adaptable people could be.
In our present-day, world pessimism is rampant, focusing on deterioration of the environment and failure of economic markets. Left unchecked, our dour pundits predict, the world is going to hell in a hand basket.
In a new book, "The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves" (Harper), Matt Ridley argues otherwise. Over time, he writes, not only will we neutralize present problems, but improve the world and its people. A former writer for The Economist, Ridley invites his readers "to stand back and look at your species differently, to see the grand enterprise of humanity that has continued to progress -- with frequent setbacks -- for 100,000 years."