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Customer Review

87 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality science writing for the intelligent lay reader, December 17, 1997
This review is from: The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and The Evolution of Cooperation (Hardcover)
Matt Ridley's Origins of Virtue is one among many recently published books on evolutionary psychology -- and it's one of the very best. What distinguishes Ridley's book from the pack is his explicit grappling with the question: What does the fact that human moral sentiments are crafted by natural selection imply about the appropriate political order? Ridley presents one of the finest challenges to Thomas Hobbes yet written. According to Ridley, modern scientific research shows that Hobbes was wrong to assume that in the absence of an all-powerful government people would brutalize each other. While each person does indeed have within himself or herself an irreducible core of self-interest, this very self-interest is typically best served by cooperating with others rather than preying on others. In Ridley's view -- which I find convincing -- all that is necessary to channel self-interested sentiments into socially cooperative patterns of behavior is a system of private and freely exchangeable property rights. The government that governs least truly does, on this reading, govern best.
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