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Laika

Julian Simon, the Ultimate Resource and Cornucopianism

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Posted (edited)

In the "collapse of Capitalism" thread Software Nerd mentioned Julian Simon in a post, and I decided to have a look into his ideas. I have been trying to get a better understanding of his view that humanity is not running out of natural resources as a form of "cornucopianism". I don't know a lot about him or have a view on him, but knowing he had depression as an experience I share, I can understand and sympathise with why he'd take the view he did. thinking about the end of the world is less than cheerful. 

The "Malthusian" view is up for debate, both because it's only one interpretation of the evidence with limited demonstrated predictive ability, involves potentially unnecessary coercive policies and relies on focusing on short-term limits on "land"/natural resources as a factor of production. The underlying values behind Malthus, originating from Christian conception of Mankind's "original sin" and inability to exercise "self-restraint" (whether it is regarding sex/population or "greed"/resources) are not position I subscribe to and are not consistent with my values. However, Malthusian views get much more coverage in the media than the opposing view (which is treated simply as "denial").

I suspect that climate change and resource limits will be an issue for the next century but that they are not beyond the human capacity to solve (given the money, resources and investment). we can go into outer space after all in the very long run and that can provide sources of key minerals that may be limited on earth. Either way, "trying" to do something is better than fatalistic resignation which seems to be the mood coming out of the environmental movement. The "alarmists" have asserted that a Malthusian catastrophe is on the way, but have proposed virtually no "real" solutions to it (beyond "change your light bulb, don't mix glass with plastics" which don't deal with the magnitude of the problem). At the heart of it, they believe that the problem is inherent in human nature- and that it is man himself not a particular pattern of development or specific technologies- that are at fault. It's dressed up as Anti-Capitalism but is in fact Anti-Humanism (as evidenced by the fact they oppose the Soviets as well for following a model of "unsustainable" economic growth and industrialisation). I'm not seeing the value of this kind of fatalism and depression in dealing with these problems and that ultimately the "end of the world" view is counter-productive to dealing with the problems themselves by talking down the human capacity to innovate. 

As this is new and unfamiliar territory, I want to ask where I should be looking for really good resources to challenge the doomsday scenario. Any suggestions? 

Edited by Laika

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11 hours ago, Laika said:

As this is new and unfamiliar territory, I want to ask where I should be looking for really good resources to challenge the doomsday scenario. Any suggestions? 

Wrt to "doomsday scenario", are you referring specifically Global Warming or resource scarcity (or both)?  Or are you referring to the deficiencies of centralized planning and/or why free markets are better able to meet changes?

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9 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Wrt to "doomsday scenario", are you referring specifically Global Warming or resource scarcity (or both)?  Or are you referring to the deficiencies of centralized planning and/or why free markets are better able to meet changes?

Global warming and Resource scarcity. Malthusian arguments are opposed to both centralised planning and free markets based on economic growth, so they are damaging regardless of the economic system involved.  

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