John Stossel

"I was fed up with the pessimists," Ridley explained. "When I was a student in the 1970s, the grown-ups told me that the future of the world was bleak, that the oil was running out, that the population explosion was unstoppable, that famine was inevitable. I feel kind of cross that nobody said anything optimistic to me about how these resources might not run out. They might become more abundant because of human ingenuity. They might actually get cheaper rather than more expensive and that it might be possible for us to live higher living standards and actually do less damage to the environment as we do so, that the air might get cleaner, the rivers might get cleaner!

"All of these things have happened. We've got healthier, happier, cleaner, kinder, cleverer, more peaceful and, indeed, more equal, if you look at the picture globally over that time."

In a debate, Bill Gates pushed back against Ridley's optimism. Gates argued that worrying about the worst case can help drive a solution.

Ridley doesn't buy it.

"If you look at where the solutions come from, they come from optimistic people living in rich places, like Steve Jobs, or Archimedes in ancient Greece, or Leonardo in Renaissance Italy. ... It's the pessimists who are the complacent ones these days, because they're the ones saying: 'This is as good as it can get. We can't make it any better.'"

But we can make it better. All it takes is rule of law and limited government. If government will just stay out of the bar, and stop bossing the patrons around, ideas will meet and mate and produce wonderful things.

John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at > To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at ©Creators Syndicate