This is great stuff from George Monbiot:
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column for the Guardian exploring the contrast
between Matt Ridley's assertions in his new book The Rational Optimist and his own
experience. In the book, Ridley attacks the "parasitic bureaucracy",
which stifles free enterprise and excoriates governments for, among
other sins, bailing out big corporations. If only the market is left to
its own devices, he insists, and not stymied by regulations, the outcome
will be wonderful for everybody.
What Ridley glosses over
is that before he wrote this book he had an opportunity to put his
theories into practice. As chairman of Northern Rock, he was responsible, according to parliament's
Treasury select committee, for a "high-risk, reckless business
strategy". Northern Rock was able to pursue this strategy as a result of
a "substantial failure of regulation" by the state. The wonderful
outcome of this experiment was the first run on a British bank since
1878, and a £27bn government bail-out.
It's worth reading the rest of the article - Ridley is thoroughly discredited in a ruthless fashion leaving zero room for him to counter Monbiot's points. Check the following withering put down
Ridley hilariously maintained that "no significant error has come to
light" in Bjørn Lomborg's book The Sceptical Environmentalist. I pointed
out that it contains so many significant errors that an entire book –
The Lomborg Deception by Howard Friel – was required to document them.
Now, without having read Friel's book, Ridley accepts that it is all
nonsense on the word of … Bjørn Lomborg! Quite right too: what more
objective reviewer of a book about Bjørn Lomborg's errors could there be
than, er, Bjørn Lomborg? Ridley then has the blazing chutzpah to state
that "Monbiot should be embarrassed to be relying on a source of this
quality". No, he doesn't mean Lomborg's rebuttal, he means Friel's book.
I still find it amazing that people like Ridley have the guts to publish nonsense like this. As a scientist, a theory can only remain a theory if it isn't discredited. Libertarianism has been thoroughly and spectacularly discredited, yet Ridley continues to peddle the same gibberish. Ridley's books on evolution are fantastic. He applies a sharp analytical mind to the wonders of Darwinian selection and his entertaining writing style makes for a great read. But when it comes to politics and economics, he seems to have taken off his scientist hat and let his emotions get the better of him. What a shame.