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Scarcity or Abundance by Julian Simon

Scarcity or Abundance by Julian Simon

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Published by: Renata on Feb 05, 2009
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11/14/2012

 
Scarcity or Abundance? A Debate on the Environmentby Julian Simon
PREFACEThere's lots of good news, and it's getting even better. Myhalf of this book contains solid evidence that several "environ-mental" matters which may scare you really are not to be feared;they are not what the public thinks them to be.These are the purposes of my side of the debate: First - totell important truths because it is fun to tell and hear them (aslong as one's interests are not threatened). Second and moreserious - to show you that when you develop new technology, buildnew goods, and expand the scope of our creative activities, youare on the side of the angels - you are promoting human improve-ment, and the quality of life. Our economic activities generallycreate more than they destroy. Hence we should encourage freedomand enterprise rather than fettering opportunity and throttlingdown the rate of progress. Productive people and organizationsshould walk tall with pride and get on with their jobs, ratherthan skulk around with a guilty conscience at befouling ourenvironment.The topics I deal with here are a small set of the conven-tional "green" beliefs that are massively contradicted by thescientific evidence. If these data make you question the commonwisdom about how our society is doing in these particular cases,perhaps you will also review your thinking about the entire setof related issues, and recognize that across the board our humansituation is getting better rather than getting worse. Perhapsyou will also consider that if the issues discussed - which inthe recent past were considered insuperable problems - turned outto be non-problems after we had time to gather the facts aboutthem, it is not unlikely that the same fate will occur to the
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more recently publicized "green" issues - the ozone layer, thegreenhouse effect, acid rain, and their kin - which we have notyet had time to understand thoroughly.My work on population economics has evolved organically overthe decades. Therefore, this book draws heavily upon my previousarticles and books - especially The Economics of PopulationGrowth (1977), The Ultimate Resource (1981), Population andDevelopment in Poor Countries (1992), and Population Matters(1990). Indeed, there are at least two sentences in the textthat were first written in 1969 and have continued to appear insuccessive evolutions of this set of ideas (just as there arevestiges in our bodies of some much less-developed species thatexisted long eons before homo sapiens. This does not mean thatwe are just made-over amoebae or monkeys, and this book is notjust a makeover of any previous book, but it is the outgrowth of them.) And in turn the forthcoming revision of The UltimateResource will contain new material from this volume.Additional citations and references to the professionalliterature and other documentation may be found in my technicalbooks and articles.CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTIONIs a big wheat harvest a good thing? Sometimes we readheadlines such as "Good harvest, bad news" -- the bad news beingfor wheat farmers, who face low prices. On balance a big harvestsurely is better for society as a whole than a small harvest.Still, the headline is negative, as if a bad thing has happened.Is the trend of black infant mortality rate discouraging?Take a look at Figure 1-1 and make your judgment, please. My own
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judgment is that the overall picture is good for blacks as wellas for the community as a whole, because many fewer babies aredying nowadays than in earlier years and many fewer parents needto grieve. Unless you focus only on the relative situation of the two groups, there seems slim basis for judging the situationas bad, unless you enjoy being morally indignant.Figure 1-1 -- Black and White Infant MortalityThis is the point of these examples: viewing the same facts,one person may be optimistic while the other is pessimistic. Thecontradiction often happens because persons judge from differentpoints of view. Frequently the root of the difference is thelength of the period you focus on -- the short run or the longrun. For many issues -- and especially issues related to econom-ic and population growth -- the long-run effect is the oppositeof the short-run effect. More people are an economic benefit inthe long run, though they are a burden in the short run.My central proposition here is simply stated: Almost everytrend that affects human welfare points in a positive direction,as long as we consider a reasonably long period of time and hencegrasp the overall trend.In this introduction I will first review some importantabsolute trends in human welfare. To repeat, my thesis is thatjust about every important measure of human welfare showsimprovement over the decades and centuries.* * *Let's start with some trends and conclusions that have longrepresented the uncontroversial settled wisdom of the economistsand other experts who work in these fields, except for the caseof population growth. On that latter subject, what you readbelow was a minority viewpoint until sometime in the 1980s, at
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