Are today’s problems caused by the sheer quantity of people?
A week ago or so, the Los Angeles Times wasted space arguing the wrong side, “The world’s biggest problem? Too many people.” Laura Huggins responded with an able rejoinder, showing that such doomspeak is old hat, falsified by experience.
She mentions Paul Erlich’s The Population Bomb, in particular, 1968’s classic in the hysterically overblown prophecy genre. Not mentioned, however, is Julian Simons’s brilliant 1981 rejoinder to Ehrlich, The Ultimate Resource. Simons marshals economic argument and a vast array of factual evidence to demonstrate that human ingenuity and the market order provide amazing solutions to problems of scarcity and limited resources. The more people you have, the more solutions can be found. With greater prosperity comes the best possible amelioration to the resource scarcity that so worries and befuddles environmentalists of the Ehrlich stripe.
But really, this is much older hat than that.
The Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus wrote the first book on the subject, back in 1798, and, even in the course of his life had to expand his tract — and radically tone down his thesis — to make himself look less of a fool. Later, writers such as Nassau Senior and Herbert Spencer demonstrated why Malthus was wrong. Population growth does not necessarily outstrip agricultural productivity. Human co-operation through markets more than makes up for our physical limitations.
We have the history of the past 200 years to prove it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.