Sunday, January 12, 2020

More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources—and What Happens NextMore from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources—and What Happens Next by Andrew McAfee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upon reading this, I must balance two reactions very carefully.

I agree with the basic premise that ON THE WHOLE, dire poverty across the world has reduced and a lot of this has to do with the free exchange of goods MINUS the looters who exploit the system OR external negatives such as unrestrained pollution. We DO have a lot of reasons to remain optimistic. Technology, awareness, the willingness of governments to combat looting, and general innovation HAS forestalled some of the very worst predictions of history. The fact that we're still around and still driving cars and have cleaner air and waterways is proof of this.

I LIKE reading books that lay out all the points where we have not fulfilled all our most dire predictions. That we haven't achieved our worst dystopias.

However, despite this book devoting the last third of its pages to notes and bibliography, it does appear to suffer from a lot of rather telling biases and cherrypicking.

Yes, when the forces of good are doing good, we accomplish a lot. But when the forces of evil are bent on maintaining the harmful status quo and governments are consistently rolling back the kinds of protections that kept us safe from monopolies, polluters, economic slavery, and disaster economics, there's no way we can say that we can sit back and relax.

Indeed, the author does not say we shouldn't worry. But he DOES give us a lot of good, real data mixed in with some perhaps wildly misinterpreted data, all of which paints a very positive picture.

For one, we are on a trend to use fewer resources as a whole. We're not perfect, but we are innovating and consistently finding alternatives. The same is true for energy consumption. We are finding ways to do the same thing as before but more efficiently. Free market DOES help this trend nicely, assuming that other forces aren't interfering with it... like coalitions and monopolies that use strong-arm techniques to keep innovation down. But that's the purpose of regulation and politics, the same area that seems to be always under siege.

Even with my fairly large quibbles, I AM quite pleased to be reading books that illustrate the positive aspects of our world. It isn't all complete s**t.


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