Matt Ridley,

The Rational Optimist

(Harper Perennial)


The Age of Affluence

The 1950s were a decade of extraordinary abundance and luxury compared with any preceding age. Infant mortality in India was already lower than it had been in France and Germany in 1900. Japanese children had almost twice as many years in education in 1950 as at the turn of the century. World income per head had almost doubled in the first half of the twentieth century.

... Americans were especially well off compared with others: they were three inches taller in 1950 than they had been at the turn of the century and spent twice as much on medicine as funerals -- the reverse of the ratio in 1900. Roughly eight of of ten American households had running water, central heating, electric light, washing machines and refrigerators by 1955. Almost none had these luxuries in 1900.

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In Search Of History

Cambodia's Deadly Experiment

In the 1950s, students started gathering in Paris. They were reading Karl Marx. They were forming book clubs. They were trying to come up with a better version of society. One that moved away from the division of labor. One that moved away from the capitalism in the big cities that they so despised. ... One of those students would change his name to Pol Pot. He and his colleagues formed a new political party, a takeover in Cambodia. They called themsevles the Khmer Rouge. ... Under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, one out of four people in that country died in less than four years. 

-- Matt Kibbe,

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