X-Message-Number: 21982
From: "michaelprice" <>
References: <>
Subject: Malthus vs Simon
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 06:05:32 +0100

Ron Havelock writes:

>> Once we've squandered what's left of the planet's fossil
>> thermodynamic capital, the human race faces a massive
>> die-off and a PERMANENT dark age, no matter how
>> much technological knowledge we might have acquired by
>> then
> Pardon me, Mark Plus, but this is doomsday nonsense.  I
> suggest that you consult the very well documented writings
> of the late  Julian L. Simon, e.g.
> The Ultimate Resource-2, Princeton Univ Press, 1996

I second that Ron.  A much under-appreciated book.

Malthus' doomsday predictions of the human population explosion being
limited by resources have always failed to materialise in the past, and I
expect this to continue into the future, forever.  Have a look at The
Ultimate Resource by Julian L. Simon to see why resources are economically
unlimited.  Simon presents many reasons why we should sceptical about the
claims of doomsayers that we are running out of resources, living on
borrowed time, etc etc

The most powerful message that I took away from this book was about
raw-material scarcity.  Most people accept without further thought that it
is axiomatic that resources are being depleted.  I was one of those people
until I read Simon's book.  Simon poses the question, how can we objectively
measure raw-material scarcity?  His answer is to examine the
wage-inflation-adjusted price of raw-materials.  (Not relative to
retail-price inflation, which only measures *relative*
scarcity/availablity.)  Wage inflation adjusted prices measure how long an
average worker must work to buy a unit some commodity, including
raw-materials.  The wage-adjusted prices of most (perhaps all) raw-materials
(oil, electricity, coal, aluminium, iron etc) are presented and they all
show an exponential decline with time, averaged over decades.  By this
objective measure, then, we arrive at the astounding conclusion that
raw-materials are growing less scarce with time, as new technologies evolve
to improve extraction and recycling techniques, along with the development
of alternatives (e.g. for oil read solar and thermonuclear energy).

Michael C Price

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