And almost everything bad is the result of utopians trying to plan the world into a better state.
Since no one has bothered to ask what my must-read book of last year was I’m going to tell you here: it’s Matt Ridley’s Evolution of Everything.
I don’t think it has appeared on nearly so many recommended lists as his previous bestsellers Genome and The Rational Optimist, nor has it been so widely reviewed. And I have a strong inkling as to why: its message is so revolutionary as to alienate pretty much everyone across the spectrum, from Christians and Muslims to corporate bosses, historians, feminists, educationalists and conspiracy theorists, from Greens and socialists all the way across (if there’s a difference) to Conservatives like George Osborne and David Cameron.
It also happens to be, in my view, as near as damn it to 100 per cent right about every subject it broaches, from the internet to bankers, from crop circles to education, from the nurture vs nature debate to religion. And no one likes a smart arse — especially not when he’s an Eton-educated smart arse with a title, an estate (built on coal-mining) and an unfortunate reputation as the man who was chairman of Northern Rock when it had to be bailed out by the taxpayer — do they?
What I find almost more interesting than the book, though, is the way it has been reviewed by those of a bien-pensant persuasion — most notably John Gray in the Guardian. He hated it. So much so, it’s pretty clear to me, that he couldn’t even bring himself to read it. Or if he did read it, he was so consumed by righteous rage that he couldn’t bring himself to address any of the utterly disgusting points made in the book.
There’s lots of invective and lofty contempt: ‘bumptious and tediously repetitive tract’; ‘if he was a more serious and reflective writer, Ridley might…’ [‘if he were’, surely?]; ‘a dated and mechanical version of right-wing libertarianism’. Plus, there’s a whole paragraph of ad homs, majoring on Eton, titles and Northern Rock. Precious little on what the book actually says.
Basically, what it says is that evolution is a phenomenon which extends far beyond Darwin to embrace absolutely every-thing. The internet, for example. No one planned it. No one — pace Al Gore and Tim Berners Lee — strictly invented it. It just sprang up, driven by consumer need and made possible by available technology. As Ridley says: ‘It is a living example, before our eyes, of the phenomenon of evolutionary emergence — of complexity and order spontaneously created in a decentralised fashion without a designer.’
Which is what, of course, is such anathema to control freaks everywhere, from the Chinese, Iranian and Russian regimes to Barack Obama, who famously declared in 2012: ‘The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet.’
Read the rest in the Spectator.