Free Markets

Matt Ridley on Ideas having Sex, Free Trade, & Apocalyptic Science w/ Reason's Kennedy


"[Some people] simply don't believe that when two people trade one is not ripping the other off," exclaims Matt Ridley, zoologist and author of The Rational Optimist.  "A big problem with the world is that human beings find positive sum games difficult to understand."

Ridley sat down with Reason's Kennedy to discuss his thoughts on free trade, ideas having sex and the irrationality of apocalyptic science.

About 7 minutes.

Filmed by Anthony Fisher and Jim Epstein. Edited by Joshua Swain.

For more Ridley and click here and here.

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NEXT: Meanwhile, the Children of Immigrants to the U.S. Are Expatriating Themselves

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  1. Most people who feel “ripped off” may cite two things: Being taken advantage of:”It really isn’t a mutually profitable transaction if I’m in an impossible bind- e.g. my muffler falls off and there is only one repair shop within a hundred miles.” And “I wouldn’t pay that – e.g. box seats at the Yankees game; what a rip-off.”
    Of course, when the shoe’s on the other foot and one is the seller – e.g. when negotiating a raise – the individual is far less likely to think he is taking advantage of the other side in the trade.

    1. It’s mostly based on the level of political sympathy of the exploited.

      When housing prices came back down to earth so did oil prices. Yet unlike housing, how many news stories did you read/hear expressing sympathy for the plight of oil companies with the headlines, “When will oil prices recover?”

      Homeowners are seniors or married couples with very young children. Oil companies are old fat cats in striped suits who light their cigars with hundred-dollar bills. This difference in sympathy is the reason for the misunderstanding.

  2. He’s making a pretty unfortunate face in the Youtube preview still.

  3. I think Matt Ridley’s insights are great, but he didn’t have anything to say about the world’s financial systems — a feild where he has worked. I’m bothered by how oblivious people seem to be about rising debts and unfunded mandates. People keep getting more stuff from government and seeing debts not come due. Are they being rational optimists?

  4. So much idea sex talk… this is basically an idea porn literature site these days.

    1. “Game theory and decision theory stared into each other’s eyes. The air between them crackled. He put his manly arms around her, and, driven by hungry passion, his hands moved lower.

      “Her breasts heaved, he ripped her shirt open –

      “‘Kiss me!’ decision theory cried. ‘Kiss me as if it were the last time!'”

  5. I agree with most of Ridley says here (people always say things are getting worse even when they’re getting better) except when it gets to climate change.

    Central question on climate change/ecology raised: is the cure worse than the disease? Ridley and the interviewer (not climate scientists) say no, supported by the explanation that climate scientists vastly overstate risks due to all the money to be made from doom and gloom. However, it’s far more profitable to be one of the few reasonable sounding skeptics than being one of thousands holding the mainstream scientific view on climate change(take bjorn lomborg or koch brothers funding of richard muller as two examples). It’s not reasonable to think that thousands of tenured scientists, with decades of experience, from dozens of countries, from the best universities, are all misleading us and then base our risk analysis on that assumption.

    Regarding this “tourniquet around our neck” that is the cure, recent budget for alternative energy research has been 2B/yr versus 800B/yr on defense. Or consider that the lifetime cost of driving a hybrid is only a bit more than driving a standard midsize car yet few drive on. And we continue to significantly subsidize fossil fuel companies. And we would rather tax income, or cigarettes, or capital gains, than tax carbon. You can start talking about a tourniquet when we start spending close to 1% of our resources on this.

    1. “(people always say things are getting worse even when they’re getting better) except when it gets to climate change.”

      You misspelled ‘especially’. There is no x in especially.

  6. WTF here, we can’t post comments at all now?

    1. I guess we just can’t post comments with italicized points from the writeup.

      1. Fuck it then, stupid server squirrels.

      2. Yeah, I found this out yesterday. What would become of this site if we just let the commentariat horde loose to post on-topic comments all over the place?

  7. Wow! that onemust have been something special! Just like the many paper writing companies and so I thought that might have worked out!

  8. Ridley is the ultimate hypocrite: a libertarian who ran a bank into the ground so it needed a government bailout; a propagandist who uses card stacking to present the facts he wants and hides those that are ‘inconvenient’ (ie. inequality between nations is falling but skyrocketing within). Giving a forum to man like this should give pause to people who take the rest of this site seriously.

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