John Gray, writing in The New Statesmen (here), doesn't like Matt Ridley's new book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (Harper 2010). He blames Ridley for liking memes, markets, and Julian Simon, and labels him a "Social Darwinist" for believing that social welfare can and does improve (more so in some institutional circumstances than others).
I have not yet had a chance to read the book, which Matt was kind enough to have the publisher send to me. But I'm feeling motivated to do so soon by Gray's review, which strikes me as more than a little vitriolic and in some respects quite unfair. For instance, Gray's suggestion that memes-talk and a belief in social progress commit Matt (or Richard Dawkins, who comes in for a gratuitous slap in Gray's review, or anyone else for that matter) to Spencerian "Social Darwinism" strikes me as ridiculous. A vast middle ground exists between the extreme position that evolutionary forces determine social relations and Gray's apparent view that culture and society are completely uninfluenced by biology.
I don't imagine that when I read his book I will agree with Matt on all points - his general attitude is definitely more laissez-faire than is mine - but I think I'm likely to agree with him more than with Gray. I'll let you know after I've had a chance to read the book.