(p. A13) Fifty years ago this month, Mr. Ehrlich published “The Population Bomb.” In it he portended global cataclysm–unless the world could be persuaded to stop producing so many . . . well . . . people. The book sketched out possible scenarios of the hell Mr. Ehrlich believed imminent: hundreds of millions dying from starvation, England disappearing by the year 2000, India doomed, the average American’s lifespan falling to 42 by 1980, and so on.
Mr. Ehrlich’s book sold three million copies, and his crabbed worldview became an unquestioned orthodoxy for the technocratic class that seems to welcome such scares as an opportunity to boss everyone else around.
. . .
Enter Julian Lincoln Simon.
Simon was a professor of business and economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1981, when this columnist first met him, Julian would smile and say the doom-and-gloomers had a false understanding of scarcity that led them to believe resources are fixed and limited.
. . .
In 1981 he put his findings together in a book called “The Ultimate Resource.” It took straight aim at Mr. Ehrlich. In contrast to the misanthropic tone of “The Population Bomb” (its opening sentence reads, “The battle to feed all humanity is over”), Julian was optimistic, recognizing that human beings are more than just mouths to be fed. They also come with minds.
. . .
. . . , human beings constantly find new and creative ways to take from the earth, increase the bounty for everyone and expand the number of seats at the table of plenty. Which is one reason Paul Ehrlich is himself better off today than he was when he wrote his awful book–notwithstanding all those hundreds of millions of babies born in places like China and India against his wishes.
For the full commentary, see:
William McGurn. “MAIN STREET; The Population Bomb Was a Dud; Paul Ehrlich got it wrong because he never understood human potential.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, May 1, 2018): A13.
(Note: ellipses in first quoted paragraph, in original; ellipses in rest of quotes, added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 30, 2018.)
The Julian Simon book, mentioned above, is:
Simon, Julian L. The Ultimate Resource. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.