It is called The Evolution of Everything. He contrasts decentralized trial-and-error evolution with top-down control in many arenas, from biology to technology to culture. My first thoughts.
1. He offers full-frontal libertarianism. On money, he cites Selgin. On education, he cites Tooley. etc. Incidentally, on culture he cites Henrich, whose book I interrupted to read Ridley’s and who does not seem to grasp the libertarian implications of his own work.
2. He cites a legal scholar with whom I was not familiar: Oliver Goodenough. Actually, I met Oliver a couple of times through a mutual friend–more than 40 years ago.
3. On the evolution of marriage, he writes that hunter-gatherer societies are mainly monogamous.
But as soon as farming came along, 10,000 years ago, powerful men were able to accumulate the resources to buy off and intimidate other men, and to attract low-status women into harems. . .If only to try to satisfy the low-status men, societies that allowed widespread polygamy tended to be very violent toward their neighbors. This was especially true of pastoral societies reliant on sheep, goats or cattle, whose wealth was mobile and showed scale economies. . .herders from Asia and Arabia not only experienced chronic violence, but kept erupting into Europe, India, China and Africa to kill men and abduct women.
…The transition to monogamy is a big theme of Christianity. . .The winners from the re-emergence of monagamy in late antiquity would have been the high-born women, who got to monopolize their husbands, and the much more numerous low-born men, who got to have sex at all.
4. On the advantage of urbanization for specialization and trade,
In America as a whole, nearly twice as many people work in grocery stores as in restaurants. In Manhattan, nearly five times as many work in restaurants
5. On the inexorable rise of economic well-being,
Stagnationism has its fans in every generation.
6. On technology, he argues strongly for context as a causal factor (“the adjacent possible”) and against individual agency (the heroic inventor). One implication:
having argued for the incremental, inevitable and collective nature of innovation, I am not a fan of patents and copyright laws. They grant too much credit and reward to individuals
7. Speaking of technology’s evolution, when he writes
The internet revolution might have happened ten years earlier if academics had not been dependent on a government network antipathetic to commercial use.
he is blowing smoke. The arrival of the commercial Internet is instead an example of context. Telecommunications pre-internet used circuit-switching networks. The Internet uses packet switching. Until relatively recently, circuit switching was much less expensive (the cross-over point was roughly the year 2000). Packet switching became economical only after sufficient iterations of Moore’s Law had taken place. In 1985, the cost of building out a mass-market Internet would have been astronomical.