Writings by Julian L. Simon Available on WWW

*Articlesarticles by Julian L. Simon*The Economic Consequences of Immigration into the United Statesa book by Julian L. Simon*Effort, Opportunity, and Wealth: Some Economics of the Human Spirita book by Julian L. Simon*Good Mood: The New Psychology of Overcoming Depressiona book by Julian L. Simon*The Hoodwinking of a Nationa book by Julian L. Simon*Scarcity or Abundance? A Debate on the Environmenta book by Julian L. Simon*The Philosophy and Practice of Resampling Statisticsa book by Julian L. Simon*Resampling: A Better Way to Teach (and Do) Statisticsa book by Julian L. Simon and Peter C. Bruce*The Science and Art of Thinking Well in Science, Business, the Arts, and Lovea book by Julian L. Simon*The Ultimate Resource IIa book by Julian L. Simon


Julian L. Simon: Essays

Unpublished Research Articles

“Determinants of Welfare Payment Use By Immigrants and Natives” – Select Commission on Immigration and Refugees, 1984

“Bunkrapt: False Threats About Resources and Population”

“The Black Invisible Hand: Notes on The Industrial Economics of Crime”

“The Effect of Numbers Upon Competitive Effort” (with Salim Rashid)

“Are Natural Resources an Increasing Constraint Upon Growth?”

“Invention, Duplication, and th th the Size of the Labor Force”

“A Decision-Tree Framework for Forecasting War and Peace in the Middle East” (1968)

“Unlocking The Riddle of Causality” or “On `Correlation Does Not Prove Causation’ And Other Semi-Nonsense”

“The Technological Progress Function And Labor Force Size: A Model Of Invention Fit To Facts”

“The Perverseness of Hotelling’s Rule”

“Reflections On Utility Functions, Time Preference, and Dynamic Programming”

“A Reconciliation of the Life-Cycle and Permanent-Income Theories”

“Auctioning Immigration Visas: Doing Well While Doing Good”

“Selling Foreigners the Right to Immigrate”

“There Is No Connection Between Trade Theory and Migration”

“A Unifying Concept To Support The Vision Of Eternal Progress”

“Are There Grounds for Regulating Immigration?”

“Whom Should You Believe About Immigration? or What Do the Real Experts Say About Immigration?”

“The Effect of the Spanish New World on the Old World; A Theoretical Framework for Assessment”

“The Effect of Immigration Upon Native Unemployment: A Formalization of Harrison’s ‘s Analysis” (with Yew-Kwang Ng)

“Demographic Causes and Consequences of the Industrial Revolution”, English version of “Cause e Conseguenze Demografiche Della Rivoluzione Industriale” in Le Rivoluzioni Del Benessere, Piero Melograni and Sergio Ricossa (eds.), (Roma-Bari: Gius. Laterza & Figli Spa, 1988), pp. 37-60.

“The Economic Effect of Russian Immigrants Upon the Veteran Israeli Population: A Cost/Benefit Analysis”, English version of publication in in in Hebrew in The Economic Quarterly, 23, August, 1976, pp. 224-252 .

“Tournaments and Piece Rates: Confirming Evidence”

“Population Growth is Not Bad for Humanity”

“Why Are Biologists Usually the Most Vocal Doomsayers?”

“An Integrated Cognitive Theory of Depression” (L. Pashute)

“Tit-for-Tat Expectations in Duopoly and Triopoly Simulation”

“Duopoly and Chaos Theory: New Directions for Research and Public Policy?”

“Conquering Depression, Enjoying Life”

“Entropy and Energy Accounting: Are They Relevant Concepts?”

“A Constant Long-Run Capital/Output Ratio is Tautologous and Meaningless”

“Barber School Requirements and the Number of Barbers”

“Triopoly Versus Duopoly – A Rich Enough Simulation” (with Carlos Puig)

“The Effects of Capital Cost in Duopoly – A Simulation” (with Carlos Puig)

“Airline Service Improves Under Deregulation”

“Why Do We Hear Prophesies of Doom From Every Side?”

“Educational Trends of Immigrants Into the U.S.” (with Ather Akbari)

“Trends in U.S. Airline Service”

“On the Economics of the Bell Curve”

“The Theory of the Fiscal Windfall from Immigration”

“Updating Subjective Probabilities With Simulation: From Pedagogy to Practice to to to Jeffrey’s Rule to Puzzles”

“Simulation and a Problem Problem of Lewis Carroll”

Julian Simon

A Reply to My Critics

From The Ultimate Resource 2 by Julian L. Simon (Princeton University Press, October, 1996)


[A] violent outcry has been made against the book, exactly answering the expectation I always had of the justice, the wisdom, the charity, and fair dealing of those whose good will I despaired of. It has been presented by the Grand Jury and condemned by thousands who never saw a word of it. It has been preached against before my Lord Mayor; and an utter refutation of it is daily expected from a reverend divine, who has called me names in the advertisements and threatened to answer me in two months time for above five months together. …[He] shows a fine talent for invectives and great sagacity in discovering atheism…(Mandeville, Fable of the Bees, 1705/1962, p. 25

It seemed like a useful and entertaining idea when Jack Repcheck, then editor at Princeton University Press, suggested that a reply to critics of the first edition be included in this second edition. It would be an opportunity to discuss the validity of criticisms of central issues, and thereby either strengthen the book’s arguments or tell which arguments were validly criticized and hence abandoned in this edition.

When I came to write this, however, I saw that the situation was not what we had envisioned. Despite the gratifyingly large amount of attention the book received, there has been little serious criticism by economists. A large proportion of the attacks have come from biologists, who for many decades and centuries – back to Benjamin Franklin, as discussed on page 000 – have voiced the strongest fears of population growth.<1>) And much of what they write is outside the framework of economics (though the subject of the book is the economics of population), and even outside of ordinary scientific discourse, as will be seen below.

I’ll first address the substantive issues, then discuss the personal attacks. Lastly, I’ll offer some observations on the nature of the criticism, and on its effects.

One reason for the paucity of serious criticism of the book’s theory and factual base is that much of the book’s core argument is not at all novel or radical, though it seems so to non-economists. Indeed, much of what is written here had been settled wisdom before I came along.

Food. The benign trends in food production and consumption have been known to respected agricultural economists – M. K. Bennett and Theodore Schultz perhaps preeminent among the consensus – since the 1950s or the 1960s. From them I learned the central ideas conveyed about agriculture here. Even those who were dubious about agriculture a decade or two ago have now come around to this consensus, perhaps mainly because of the continued accumulation of data which have ever more sharply contradicted the doomsayers. For example, we now read in the newspaper:

The World Bank…on the eve of a two-day conference on ‘Overcoming Global Hunger’…sought to refute the Malthusian thesis that the world will reach a point where it cannot produce enough food for an expanding population, In fact, said bank Vice president Ismail S[e]rageldin, agricultural prices are ‘at their lowest levels in history’ and world food production ‘rises faster than the population’. <2>

For anyone who has followed the World Bank’s utterances since the 1970s, this public statement represents an amazing turnaround.

Evidence of this consensus about the trends can be found even in the most unlikely of places. Lester Brown and his Worldwatch Institute – Brown having been one of the harsh critics of this book – continue to warn of impending food shortages, just as Brown has for decades (see Chapters 5-7 and my 1990 book). In 1994 they warn that (according to the newspaper) “After 40 years of record food production gains, output per person has reversed with ‘unanticipated abruptness.'” [1] In other words, they implicitly confess that all the earlier dire warnings by Brown were wrong and the food situation has improved here, rather than deteriorated as he had forecast it would- a confirmation of what the consensus of agricultural economists has said for decades. Yet as always in the past, Brown once more reads into an inevitable current irregularity in the trend a change in the long-term pattern. And the press gives it huge play without even consulting the mainstream agricultural economists.

Natural Resources. Similarly, under the influence of Harold Barnett and Chandler Morse’s 1967 Scarcity and Growth (the great book which was my tutor), many resource economists had long ago moved far toward the position on which this book stands with regard to natural resources. True, I push these ideas further than most, but this is not a theoretical difference; the main novelty here on resource topics is the broad data that I provide, together with the explicit assertions about non-finiteness which might even be considered implicit in some predecessors’ writings.

Pollution. Early in this century A. C. Pigou provided the basic economic theory of environmental pollution that is the backbone of my chapters on that topic. Nothing radical in this book for economists to criticize.

Population Growth. With respect to the effects of population growth itself, the economics profession as a whole did not endorse it as I did in the first edition or in my earlier professional work. But for centuries there have been important voices arguing in favor of population growth, including William Pett, David Hume, and Adam Smith. Malthus himself reversed his position in the second edition of his Essay. Even economists not persuaded of population growth’s advantages have never worried greatly about its consequences because of the economist’s emphasis on the remarkable properties of spontaneous economic adjustment to change. So it was not very surprising when during the 1980s there was a shift among professional economists who study the economics of population effects to the position where they now stand, as encapsulated in the 1986 NAS report which is not far from the position of this book, though that fact is not reflected in the popular press. (The few economists who call their work “ecological economics” and take a strong negative position on growth are far from the mainstream of economics.)

Before proceeding to discuss substantive criticisms and negative rhetoric, it should be noted that a fair amount of the huge attention the book received – the reviews in journals, magazines, and newspapers that found their way to me came to an amazing 150, with many more since then in books and in personal correspondence – has been positive. I am grateful for the helpful ideas and positive words. No more will be said about the positive comments here, with the sole exception of two letters from Friedrich Hayek appended to this chapter.


Martha Campbell, a political scientist and founder of two population “activist” organizations, collected and published the major substantive criticisms of my work on population. Her aim was to provide a compendium of refutations of my work. To her credit, Campbell stuck to discussable issues and left aside the sorts of non-substantive ad hominem attacks to be discussed later. The compendium appeared in Focus (Vol 3, No. 1, 1993), a publication of Carrying Capacity Network, an organization dedicated to reducing the rate of population growth.

I’ll address all the main issues in Campbell’s review so that the reader can be sure that I’m not ducking fundamental criticisms. (It is a shame that I have to resort to devices like this to assure the reader that I’m being honest, but as you will see below, my integrity is regularly called into question by those who dislike the ideas contained here.) I shall take up issues largely in the order in which Campbell gives them; a few that either seem to be confused or trivial will not be mentioned. I will start at her beginning and march down through her list; luckily, Campbell put the most important issues first. This sequential procedure should also work to reassure the reader that I am not avoiding the hard issues and selecting the creampuffs to reply to. Furthermore, the fact that I address myself mostly to the critics she marshals should add confidence that I am not hunting-and-picking through the literature for the arguments I can most easily deal with. (This sounds defensive, of course; later you’ll see why.)

It is worth noting again that though the main issues the book addresses are economic, only a small proportion of Campbell’s criticisms are by academic economists; most are by sociologists and organizational advocates.

1. Finiteness. The first issue listed is finiteness; indeed, the central focus of substantive criticism is the concept of finiteness. My general reply is presented in the context of the argument itself in Chapters 3 and 4. In Campbell’s list the issue is mentioned first (raised by Herman Daly and John Cobb) in connection with my merely linguistic illustration of the concept of finiteness in mathematics where it is defined as countability, using the example of a geometric line. I discuss this metaphor and the criticism of it in Chapter 3. (I probably should have foregone this excursion into pure logic and avoided misleading some readers).

Lindsey Grant then attacks what he calls “a faith in infinite substitutability that Simon probably acquired from the academic economists. The assumption is not based on any systematic rationale, nor is it buttressed by any evidence…Biologists and ecologists have been trying without success to persuade the economists that the assumption is terribly dangerous in a finite world…”

I do not say that “infinite substitutability” is possible now or at any future moment. What I do say is that substitutability is increasing with the passage of time; there have been more and cheaper substitutes for each raw material with the passage of time.

Finiteness by itself is not testable, except insofar as the fact that no one is able to state the absolute size of the relevant system (our cosmos) demonstrates the absence of finiteness in its dictionary sense. But the relevant evidence we have available – decreasing prices and increasing substitutability – is not what one would expect from a finite system. (Hence the critics are reduced to saying that all the evidence of history is merely “temporary” and must reverse “sometime”, which is the sort of statement that is outside the canon of ordinary science.)

There is no doubt that my assertion of non-finiteness is anti-commonsensical and, indeed, mindboggling; regrettably (and contrary to what Grant and others assert) it is not explicit in standard economics, though it is not incompatible with standard received economics. But the critics simply do not come to grips with the matter that the available data are not consistent with the assumption of finiteness.

In the same section Keyfitz disagrees with other critics and agrees with me that “there seem to be adequate amounts of the nonrenewable resources” (though I would not put it that way). He then argues that the real problem is overuse of renewable resources. But presumably this could only be so if the supply of renewable resources is limited by some non-expandable (finite) resources. If so, it is simply another form of the above discussion of finite resources.

Preston has written that there is no benefit in having additional people in the present period because the only question is whether a given increment of people will live now or some time in the future. “It is surely possible that by having more [people] now we are reducing the numbers who may be alive at future dates – for example, if we have increased the risks of social or environmental disaster” [1982, p. 177]. A reasonable interpretation of this is that more people contending for resources in a given period can have bad effects, and that more use in one period means less to be used in later periods. But once again this depends on the assumption of a fixed (finite) quantity of resources, the “common sense” assumption which I hope I have dispatched (or at least called into question) in Chapters 3 and 4. This criticism also implicitly assumes that the present value of the contribution of a given person to the creation of knowledge is the same whether the person lives in one period or another, a complex idea which would need some arguing to make plausible.

Nothing I have written is intended to suggest that during any particular period there may not be too much use of any resource, renewable or non-renewable; indeed, I expect temporary overuses (for example, overuse of forest resources in various countries in various centuries) just as I expect boom-and-bust cycles in all other human endeavors. But this is a matter of management and adjustment in dealing with, and riding out, the ups and downs, rather than a matter of ultimate finiteness.

2. Knowledge and Population. The second issue in Campbell’s list is the endogeneity of growth with respect to human numbers. The first-mentioned critic (H. W. Arndt) says: “The notion that technological progress is a function of population because the larger the population the larger the number of inventive minds strains credulity”. In my view, the notion that increase in knowledge is not a function of the number of people seems to strain credulity; after all, where does knowledge come from except from human minds? But credulity is not the test; the conclusion should depend not on what one or another person finds credible, but rather evidence should be the test.

Neither Arndt nor anyone else brings evidence to bear against the proposition, while in this book and my other books (see especially Simon, 1992), much evidence is presented in the book in support of the proposition that there is a strong connection between population and production of knowledge, holding income level constant.

Here is one more piece of data which I came across after completing the book: According to Derek de Sola Price, each working scientist produces about three technical papers in a lifetime, a number which has remained rather constant over the years.[<3> Price also presents many time-series which show that there has been a huge rise in the amount of new knowledge as measured by the number of scientific journals, citations, and the like, during the past four or so centuries as population has risen. This squares with all the other evidence provided in this book.

The critics attack these data by reducing my argument to a vulgar form in which I do not make it – that the amount of new technology produced should be a function of numbers without consideration of other variables such as education. Thomas Merrick says that “Few of the technological advances now available to LDC’s were developed by LDC’s.” He even suggests that “Many modern technologies in fact exacerbate LDC problems”. And Keyfitz says “Julian Simon thinks it [technology] is driven by population; if that were so the inhabitants of squatter colonies in Mexico City or hungry cattle herders in the Sahel would be very creative”. This issue is dealt with in Chapter 00 wherein I discuss why China and India do not now produce as much new technology, and are not as rich, as the Western countries. And in the evidence pertaining to the amount of science in various countries that Love and I developed (see page 000), we held constant the per capita income of the various countries as a proxy for educational level; the production of technology then is demonstrably a function of education as well as a function of numbers.

Campbell quotes A. Bartlett as writing that I regard “Mozart and Einstein as mere statistical events. In this simple view, the more births the more Mozarts” (the issue dealt with just above). But Bartlett then continues, “This suggests that we should breed to the maximum biological rate and we should deplore the natural growth limitation processes whose existence he has praised”.

Never have I written that we should “breed to the maximum”, nor is it implied by the previous statement by Bartlett (which also is a vulgarized form of my argument); this is typical of much of the criticism – implying to me a view I do not hold, and then criticizing it as ludicrous. Furthermore, there are many costs and benefits of there being more or fewer people other than the production of new knowledge, important though that may be.

In the same section Campbell quotes Peter Timmer: “Wise and sensitive policy aimed at solving the short-run problems that Simon ignores is the pressing issue for most of mankind”. I do not at all “ignore” short-run effects. But I do insist that long-run effects should be considered also, and the entire range of effects over time should be brought together into a present value calculation; it is the attending only to short-run effects that has badly misled so many writers, because the longer-run effects often are the opposite of the short-run effects. Indeed, this is true of all investments; the outgo happens early while the income only occurs later.

Sirageldin and Kantner do not seem to grasp this fundamental aspect of the investment process. Campbell quotes them: “The main thesis…is that a moderate rate of population growth, although harmful in the short-run [which Timmer above says that I “ignore”], is beneficial in the long-run…[This thesis] is logically inconsistent. If it is true for today, it cannot be true for tomorrow…Otherwise, the detrimental short-run effect will persist forever…” This thesis is no more inconsistent than is any other description of the reversing time-path of a successful investment; the early cash flow is negative, but the later cash flow is sufficiently positive to render the investment profitable.

Daly and Cobb simply dismiss the question with a neat dig at this book and this writer: “In sum, all the talk about knowledge and the mind as an ultimate resource [the title of this book] that will offset limits imposed by finitude, entropy, and ecological dependence seems to us to reflect incompetent use of the very organ alleged to have such unlimited powers” (1989, p. 199).

A recent important development in economics has been the theory of endogenous growth. That theory is consistent with the argument I make in this book. [<4>

3. Population and Growth. Campbell first quotes Preston that “Even if we accept Simon’s view, it was mortality-driven population growth, not fertility-driven growth”. Either I inadvertently slipped somewhere in my writing, or Preston slipped in reading, because I have never held any view other than that it was the drop in mortality in the past two centuries that caused the huge increase in population. Hence it could not have been an increase in fertility that caused the first-ever sustained worldwide increase in living standards that has occurred since perhaps 1750, as Preston suggests I assert. Indeed, another critic – Thomas L. Wayburn – believes that he can “discredit him [Simon] once and for all. We should be suspicious of a scholar who publishes a paper with one serious error in it”. The supposed error? My statement – which is what Preston taxes me for not making – that “It is this decrease in the death rate that is the cause of there being a larger world population nowadays than in former times”.[<5>

Attention is paid to fertility in this book simply because fertility control rather than mortality control is the central focus of population policies. Indeed, one of the most poignant graphs in the first edition is the decline in funds devoted by AID to health programs abroad relative to fertility programs.

Ansley Coale suggests (in Campbell) that my argument is defective because “a substantial fraction (perhaps an unchanging fraction) of people of labor force age will still depend on agricultural activities”, and he refers to Bangladesh as an example. If indeed the agricultural-sector proportions of poor countries were not declining, economic growth would indeed be hampered. But by now there is solid evidence that even those countries where the matter was long questioned by some economists – such as India – have commenced the process that has appeared everywhere else in the world; for much data, see Sullivan.<6>

4. Population and Environment. Thomas Stoel is the first mention in this section of Campbell’s review: My “argument is fundamentally defective, for increased life expectancy is mainly a function of access to health care (as well as a reflection of public health progress in water filtration, improved sanitation, and better nutrition), not of pollution”. But it was the decline in pollution – greatly assisted by better sanitation – that brought about the stunning declines in mortality. The problem is that the word “pollution” has changed its meaning simply because the great killing disease pollutions of the past – cholera, typhoid fever, diphtheria, and the like – have now been conquered in the rich countries; people now think of pollution as the relatively minor dangers (relative to the past) of pesticides and various carcinogens. This shift in meaning is documented in Chapter 00. Certainly vaccination and other public-health measures have mattered greatly, as has better nutrition (which is hardly a matter of “public health progress”, as Stoel calls it, but rather of private progress). But the gains in life expectancy due to conquering the great water and air pollutions of the past are undeniable.

5. Food. “Three chapters on famine and food supply ignore completely the issue of food self-sufficiency in he developing countries. The fact that almost all developing countries have become net importers of grain is not mentioned” (Sirageldin and Kantner in Campbell). Even if the “fact” that they refer to were true, it is not relevant to any policy decisions. The aim of self-sufficiency is exactly the sort of fallacy that economics has been most successful in showing to be counter-productive; it is the opposite of the principle of comparative advantage, about which almost all economists agree.

6. Family Planning. Campbell herself writes that “he [Simon] does not believe that governments should support family planning programs”. I do not know how she has inquired into my beliefs on the subject. But my public record is clear: I have written again and again that I believe that helping a couple get the number of children that the couple wants is one of the great works of humanity. And to the extent that governments do just that, I generally support their activities. It is only when they conduct a coercive or propagandistic population-control program under the false label of “family planning” that I do not support the activity; it then is a limitation of peoples’ liberties rather than an extension of their capacities.

I am flattered by the stature of some of the people who have denounced me at one time or another. For example, my 1980 Science article was sharply criticized by the president of the National Academy of Science, Philip Handler, along with five other notables– Nobel prizewinner Norman E. Borlaug, Director, International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center; Lincoln Gordon, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs; Marshall Green, Former Coordinator of Population Affairs, State Department; Edwin M. Martin, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs; Russell W. Peterson, President, National Audubon Society; they, on the letterhead of the Population Crisis Committee, wrote a long critical letter to _S_c_i_e_n_c_e about my work, using as ammunition statements and language that seemed almost cadged from the _G_l_o_b_a_l_ _2_0_0_0_ _R_e_p_o_r_t_ _t_o_ _t_h_e_ _P_r_e_s_i_d_e_n_t. They said (among many other things) that over the next twenty years, “At the present rate, some 40 percent of the world’s rain forests may disappear.” For fun, I wrote to distinguished biologist Handler asking for the basis of the “40 percent” assertion. He replied in part:

I frankly doubt that there exists anywhere what could fairly be considered what you refer to as a “solid time series” on rain forests. It was for this reason that in our letter to SCIENCE we stated the concept of con- version of moist tropical forest in such equivocal terms, speaking of “some 40%” and that that portion “may” dis- appear…

I doubt that the “some 40%” used in our letter to SCIENCE could be defended with any appreciable precision; there are some who feel that the current trends virtually assure complete destruction, others who feel that the situation is less catastrophic. What I think we were saying is that conversion rates are rapid and that a very substan- tial amount of the remaining most forest will be gone in the easily foreseeable future.

A less equivocal term than Handler’s “equivocal terms” is “weasel words”, meaning “not the plain complete truth”. It grieves me that people of such achievements as Handler can stray so far from the precepts of the science they do so well to stretch the truth this way. But somehow my work evokes such responses in otherwise thoughtful and responsible people.


The volume of substantive negative comment as discussed above has been small compared to the volume of ad hominem attack. (Kind friends have sent me enough examples to fill cardboard boxes.) I shall now relate some of the grosser examples, with several motives: 1. You may be able to infer something about the impact of the work itself from these reactions; as an old lawyer’s saying goes: “When you have the law on your side, pound the law. When you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. When you have neither the law nor the facts going for you, pound the table” – or in this case, pound me, and that’s a good sign. 2. I hope it induces you to imagine what it would do to you to have so many people respond to your work in this fashion. 3. I can’t resist teasing them with their own words. And by publicizing their nastiness and ridicule I may make the ridiculers seem ridiculous. I have no other way of fighting back.

Attacks on Integrity

Other charges against me are often compounded with the charge of dishonesty. For example, in a 1983 commencement address at Knox College, a distinguished botanist took the time to say about my work “His ignorance of the biological realities would simply be laughable if it did not have such dangerous potential consequences. It seems almost unbelievable in the face of known facts …,” that I use an “intellectually dishonest strategy,” that it is “immoral to pretend that everything is fine when the facts so clearly tell us otherwise,” and that I do this for “short-term political gains” (Raven. 1983, p. 7).

[[[[OUT IN ULTRES2 Another sample, from a letter to the Washington Times by an ex-State Department official and a principal in the firm that published The Limits to Growth: “In seeming isolation from the real world, Simon manipulates statistics to try to prove . . . ” (Lesh, 1983). ]]]And there is lots more of such impugning my character and motives.

Consider this letter which a colleague of mine received from Robert May, a distinguished zoologist, **former head of the department of zoology at Oxford, and the Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Government:**

What Simon and Wildavsky do, in essentials, is take the rates of certified extinctions for vertebrate animals (which extinction rates are themselves certainly an underestimate), since 1600, and treat these numbers as if they applied to all one million or more known animal species, rather than the roughly 40,000 known verte- brate species. They then build on this initial silli- ness, in a letter whose tone is ill-suited to serious intellectual discourse.

It is very difficult for me to see how any serious and honest person, acting in good faith, could do something so stupid as to take documented extinction figures which pertain essentially to vertebrates and treat them as if they applied to all metazoans. These authors have, I might add, also been very resistant to having this and other factual errors pointed out to them.

Sadly, I conclude that what we are dealing with here is not an honest pursuit of intellectual understanding, but rather with some other agenda (or possibly with stark stupidity, or even both).

In fact, I (with Wildavsky or alone) never have made any estimate of the overall rate of species extinction, as may be ascertained in Chapter 31. But even if I had done so in the fashion May described, which would indeed be foolish, would that be a basis for inferring dishonesty? And what is my “agenda”? I represent no organization, and I receive no money in consulting or research grants (which is true of few competent people in the field), a matter that allows me to be a particularly free person.

I wrote the colleague saying that I would quote May’s words on the dustjacket of this book, and I sent May a copy of the letter (to tease him, I confess). May then threatened me with lawyers. As I wrote to him[<7>, “There does seem to be something funny about you wanting to sue me to prevent me from printing the ugly things you say about me.”

Thomas Wayburn speculates on the content of an “agenda” such as May alludes to. “People who try to tell us that the earth is big enough to accommodate a much larger population probably have their own hidden agendas. For example, they may want to ensure a cheap, readily available labor supply for themselves or for those they serve, or they might hope that many more dissatisfied people will give them political power faster. Thus, they hope to make things better by making things worse…One such critic is Julian L. Simon…”[<8>[

The Special Case of Paul Ehrlich

For economy of treatment of the matter of attack rhetoric, let’s focus on just one critic, Paul Ehrlich, who has directed a great deal of colorful language in my direction (see also his comments in the Afternote to Chapter 15, and my interchange with him in Simon, 1990, Selection 43). He is a treasure-trove of snappy quotes (for other of his remarks, please look him up in the index of this book) useful for writers who are critical of me and also for me in this chapter to show how he works; for example, he (with Anne Ehrlich) confer on me the leadership of a “space-age cargo cult”[<9>

One of Ehrlich’s main devices is attributing some combination of stupidity and scientific ignorance to those with whom he disagrees. In a talk to 200,000 people in person (how many more on television I do not know) on Earth Day, 1990<10>, Ehrlich alluded to the title of this book, saying “The ultimate resource – the one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles”, which got a good laugh from the crowd.[<11>; he frequently uses words like “ignorant”, “crazy”, “imbecile”<12>, and “moronic”.[<13> In an essay entitled “Simple Simon Environmental Analysis”, which is a commentary on a preceding short essay of mine [<14>the Ehrlichs refer to “a few uninformed people [who] claim that population growth is beneficial”, and write, “The connections between economic growth, population growth, and quality of life are much more subtle and complicated than Simon imagines”[<15> “Getting economists to understand ecology is like trying to explain a tax form to a cranberry. It’s as if Julian Simon were saying that we have a geocentric universe at the same time NASA’s saying the earth rotates around the sun. There’s no reconciling these views. When you launch a space shuttle you don’t trot out the flat-earthers to be commentators. They’re outside the bounds of what ought to be discourse in the media. In the field of ecology, Simon is the absolute equivalent of the flat-earthers”. (Minor comment: I’m not “in the field of ecology”).[<16>

Then others copy Ehrlich’s colorful language. The former Medical Director of International Planned Parenthood Foundation, Malcolm Potts, writes, “Julian Simon – and his fellow flat- earthists – assured Washington decision makers that entrepreneurs and Nobel prize winners would be popping up from the streets of Calcutta propelled by the glorious multiplication of human numbers” [<17>

Ehrlich taxes me as follows: “Misdefining the problem, selective use of data, analyses of time series over inappropriate intervals, and determined ignorance of the most basic tenets of science. Indeed, the book contains so many childish errors that it would take work of equal length to detail them.” (Paul Ehrlich, with Anne Ehrlich.)1

Ehrlich frequently recycles the same remarks: “To explain to one of them the inevitability of no growth in the material sector, or…that commodities must become expensive would be like trying to explain odd-day-even-day gas distribution to a cranberry” [<18> And “The views of…Simon are taken seriously by a segment of the public, even though to a scientist they are in the same class as the idea that Jack Frost is responsible for ice-crystal patterns on a cold window” <19> “Simon apparently doesn’t know the difference between an old-growth virgin forest (with its critical biodiversity intact) and a tree farm.”<20> And when asked “his opinion of Simon, he said, ‘that’s like asking a nuclear physicist about horoscopes.'” [<21>

Ehrlich and I have never debated face to face. He says that he has refused because I am a “fringe character”.[<22> We have only locked horns directly in two cases, and in both incidents he has been demonstrably wrong. He and his colleagues based their criticism of my 1980 Science article (that conveyed some of the findings of this book) on what turned out to be a typographical error in a source. If I had been in their shoes, I would have been chagrined and embarrassed when this was discovered. But Ehrlich replied: “What scientist would phone the author of a standard source [as I did] to make sure there were not typos in a series of numbers showing a general trend with which every analyst in the field is completely familiar?”<23> (That must be one of the most peculiar lines ever written by a member of a profession whose business is the search for scientific truth.) I consider it very significant that Ehrlich has suffered no apparent damage from being so wrong; I know of no mention of the incident in print.

Our other encounter was the bet mentioned on page 000, following on the 1980-1981 interchange in Social Science Quarterly (reproduced in my 1990 book). Many people have asked him about its outcome, and a few of the answers have been passed on to me. To a college newspaper: “The bet doesn’t mean anything”.<24> On BBC television: “It was an excellent bet. We happened to lose it. You can lose making an excellent bet”.<25> (Indeed that is quite correct. But one should then be anxious to repeat the bet – which Ehrlich refuses to do.) But on the same program he said, “I debated a long time about whether to take him up on the bet because it was the wrong bet [but compare his remark cited on page 000 about how anxious he and his colleagues were to make the bet, and to make it much larger]. On the other hand, it was very hard to explain the right bet to him and finally we decided that if we took the bet we’d shut him up for at least ten years”. To a book interviewer: “We knew if we bet on metals there would be a fair chance we’d lose. But we knew at the very least that if we took him on we could keep him quiet for a decade. But the bet was trivial; we could have bet on the state of the atmosphere or on biodiversity loss…”<26> And “The bet doesn’t mean anything. Julian Simon is like the guy who jumps off the Empire State Building and says how great things are going so far as he passes the 10th floor. I still think the price of those metals will go up eventually…I have no doubt that sometime in the next century food will be scarce enough that prices are really going to be high even in the United States”. But to repeat, of course Ehrlich will not bet again. <27>

Ehrlich (with Stephen Schneider, 1995) has also written that he “once made the mistake of being goaded into making a bet with Simon on a matter of marginal environmental importance (prices of metals). And he told reporter that “I got schnookered…Prices of metals really don’t have much to do with environmental quality”. But in 1980 Ehrlich and his colleagues said they would “accept Simon’s astonishing offer before other greedy people jump in.” Goaded? And concerning “marginal importance” and “schnookered”, check his voluminous writings about the importance of predicted scarcities he predicted for food and other natural resources – scarcities which are best measured by prices, of course. (San Francisco Chronicle opinion column of May 18, 1995)

Others have attempted to explain the bet away, too. Norman Myers writes: “The Ehrlich group lost the bet, but through unusual circumstances of the 1980s that prompted Simon himself to write…`I have been lucky that this particular period coincided so nicely with my argument'”[<28> Myers’s statement is false; I was not “prompted” by “unusual circumstances” to say “I have been lucky”. Rather, there always is a certain amount of uncertainty in any wager, and the soundest wager can be lost if one has bad luck; that is all that I meant. In fact, I consider the circumstances in the 1980s not the slightest bit unusual.

(If Mr. Myers himself believes that the circumstances were unusual, why will he not take me up on my offer to repeat the wager – for any period he picks, for any commodities? During a debate with him I repeatedly challenged him to wager on this or any other trend of material welfare. But he merely ignored my offer, just as Ehrlich and others have ignored the offer of another go-round – in the same breath as they try to explain away losing the first time.)

An entire article was devoted to “How Julian Simon Could Win the Bet and Still Be Wrong”. The argument is: “Most economists would have bet on Simon from the start…but many of them also know that Ehrlich is right. Quality of life did deteriorate worldwide in the ten year interval.”[<29> (Nobody said that the bet was an index of “quality of life”. But in any case, quality of life has not deteriorated, as this book shows aplenty.)

One of Ehrlich’s devices is to refer to “Julian Simon, a specialist in mail-order marketing”<30>, a device copied with variation by Garrett Hardin as in “marketing expert Julian Simon”<31>. I plied that trade for two years ending in 1963 (plus writing a book on the subject that still sells well in the 5th edition, I’m proud to say. Unfortunately, there are many to whom the idea of private business is incompatible with truth or honor or public service, and Ehrlich clearly is playing to them. He probably also is suggesting that a former businessperson must not be a sound scholar.

Sometimes Ehrlich combines this device with not mentioning my name, as in “an economist specializing in mail-order marketing”.[<32>Here he actually writes a falsehood about my specialty at present (and the past 30 years), which he does again in another variation, referring to me without name on television as “a Professor of Mail-Order Marketing”<33>; a more litigious person might sue him.


One of the difficulties in having a reasoned discussion with my critics is that many frame their criticisms in political terms.

Attacks from the Far Right and Far Left

Politically-tinged attacks come from both sides of the political spectrum. From what I can tell, the politics of some of these people is at the far left and some at the far right. They attack me as being (presumably) the opposite of what they themselves are.

I have been attacked by people who call themselves “conservatives” as a Marxist and a Red (especially with respect to immigration), and by still others as a libertarian. An article entitled “Simon Says: Take One Giant Step to Unreality”, begins: “The most important thing to know about Julian Simon is that he is motivated by ideology. As a libertarian, his focus is the individual; but not all individuals, just those deemed oppressed by ‘society’…Knowing where Simon is coming from helps when trying to make sense of his arguments. The hodge-podge of ‘evidence’, the bold but unsupported assertions and his constant mixing of apples and oranges stem from the fact that his research is not aimed at seeking the truth…His research is for propaganda purposes”[<34>

Perhaps because those of far-right persuasion are relatively rare in academia, attacks on me as a “lousy Red” tend to come on scrawled postcards without signature. One such flattered me with a death threat which a neighbor in the Secret Service thought worth having the FBI track down.

Those on the left dismiss me as motivated by religious or other traditional ideas. Many tar me with the brush of putative association with political conservatism (though I do not subscribe to that doctrine any more than I am a “liberal”). For example, the distinguished demographer Nathan Keyfitz makes it seem that I am of their party when he writes that “The applause that Simon gets from the political right on his other views is more muted on immigration”, though he is indeed correct that the right criticizes me on immigration[<35>. And a review of my 1986 book in the main sociological review medium, Contemporary Sociology begins: Never has a conservative neoclassical economist attempted so rigorous a defense of the weakest points of Marxist population theory.<36>

It was a joy to reply to that, beginning as follows:

I am anxious to set the record straight on this sentence, lest my family think I’ve gone round the bound with respect to “conservative”, some colleagues take comfort that I have turned “neoclassical”, and friends take fright about the Marxism.<37>

The reviewer, Douglas Anderton, responded:

My characterization of Simon’s central arguments as conservative, neoclassical, and consistent with Marxist population theory are all accurate. Simon responds that he does not consider himself personally conservative…

It is easy to make fun of the inaccuracy and illogic of Anderton’s reply. For example, the review referred to me as “conservative”, but when that becomes patently untenable – it would be nigh impossible to say with a straight face that a person is conservative when a person refuses such a label – the response shifts to my argument as being conservative. And, my argument goes from being a “point of Marxist population theory” to being “consistent with” Marxist thought after I note that it originated with the founding father of classical economic thought two hundred years before Marx. But the key point here is not how far the reviewer reaches to be critical; rather, the key point is the extent to which the reviewer’s politics, and his beliefs about what mine are, suffuse his review.

As to the substance of the review, it boils down to this last sentence in the response: “I am simply suggesting that, in this text, Simon has ignored the basic physical realities of entropy”. In other words, a sociologist instructs us that the physics of cosmology – a subject now enlivened by fundamental speculative differences (see Chapter 00) – as embodied in that old chestnut entropy, makes nonsense of what I write about population economics. Once again, it all comes back to the assertion that our cosmos and our planetary resources are “finite”.

Political attacks of this stripe are reminiscent of the switch in the language applied to Soviet leaders antedating the collapse of the USSR. Before sympathizers found out how murderously cruel the socialist Stalinist-Marxist regime was, and still looked on it with favor, people who referred to themselves with such labels also referred to the USSR as “left-wing” and “progressive” and “liberal”. After even the most sympathetic apologist could no longer deny the truth of the brutality, the former apologists began to refer to the Stalinist types still in power as “conservative” and “right-wing”, and the anti-socialist free-market Russians as “liberal”. In other words, “right wing” and “conservative” often are simply pejorative rather than referring to a particular sort of political or economic thought.

Many of the critics from both ends of the political spectrum seem to have in common that they believe in “rational” governmental control of individuals and society. Chinese tracts on population write that just as the production of goods “must” be planned, the production of human capital also must be planned. The zealous right-wing and the zealous left-wing both want the state – and of course, themselves as leaders of the state – to tell people what to do. The wings differ somewhat in what they want to control – whether people’s personal or business lives, though they may agree in such matters as wanting authorities to regulate how a person maintains the lawn in front of the house. (I just read of a couple being hailed into court in South Salt Lake City for “failing to maintain their landscape” due to insufficient watering.)<38> It is with respect to governmental control of the acts of individuals that my values diverge most sharply from those of both political wings who criticize this book on political grounds.

This book argues that the reasons both those on the Far Left and Far Right give for wanting to control individuals’ demographic behavior are not valid economically. Many on the Far Right want to reduce immigration, and they offer supposed economic reasons for doing so; they attack me because my work suggests that their reasons are not sound. Some among the Far Right, and perhaps among the Far Left, too, also want other nations to actively control population growth because they wish to prevent an increase in the numbers of people in non-European countries, either for fear of becoming numerically inferior for military reasons (a view which the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has advanced for decades; see U. S. National Security Council, 1974) or because of the desire that the proportion of white people will not decline more rapidly than is happening.


One cannot argue with personal attacks. One can, however, attempt to explain them. Concerning the purpose of the attacks, I see them as a device for marginalizing, devilizing, and thereby dismissing from consideration people like me so that their ideas should not be taken seriously. As to explaining why such passions are aroused, one can learn from the history of the theory of relativity. (More generally, see Chapter 00 on the nature of the thinking and the central concepts at work in these discussions – the central cause of the difference in conclusions.)

Bertrand Russell said that “The theory of relativity depends, to a considerable extent, upon getting rid of notions which are useful in ordinary life”.<39> And in the Middle Ages, accepting the idea that Earth should be considered round for astronomical purposes required that people get past the everyday idea that the surface of a pond is flat, and that a ball does not roll on a table. Similarly, understanding the economics of natural resources such as energy requires leaving aside the everyday idea that there must be a “finite” quantity of them, and therefore that using some must mean there is less left, hence increased scarcity. Just as Russell tells us that with Einstein’s work “the old ideas of space and time had to be changed fundamentally”<40>, the everyday concept of the stock of a resource as measured by physical quantity must give way to the economic concept of the stock of a resource as measured by its price. The doomsayers jeer at this anti-commonsensical idea just as Copernicus’ and Galileo’s opponents jeered at their conception of the cosmos (which makes it rather ironic, incidentally, that Ehrlich et. al. choose the epithet “flat-earther” to throw at me). (Relax, I’m not comparing myself to those greats. I’m just suggesting that we can learn from their experiences.)

Famous science writer Isaac Asimov expressed the bewilderment of a person who at least faced up to this intellectual predicament, as Ehrlich et. al. do not. Asimov read about the resources bet and then wrote:

Naturally, I was all on the side of the pessimist and judge my surprise when it turned out he had lost the bet; that the prices of the metals had indeed fallen; that grain was cheaper; that oil…was cheaper; and so on.

I was thunderstruck. Was it possible, I thought, that something that seemed so obvious to me – that a steadily rising population is deadly – can be wrong?

Yes, it could be. I am frequently wrong.

Asimov permitted himself to be bewildered. “I don’t understand this,” he wrote. And he says about economics in general: “I cannot understand it, and I cannot believe that anyone else understands it, either. People may say they understand it…but I think it is all a fake.”<41>

Unlike Asimov, the doomsayers refuse to allow themselves to be bewildered by the facts. Instead, they simply reject the facts and deride anyone who presents the facts. Garrett Hardin writes:

To really get to the heart of the matter [population growth], we must ignore statistical arguments and opt for the commonsense approach.

As the logician…Quine has said, ‘Science itself is a continuation of common sense. Therefore, this essay will avoid statistics. The opaqueness of statistical arguments makes it easy for analysts to “get away with murder”. Though often wonderfully useful, statistics can also serve as a substitute for thought…empirical studies …can be so selected and arranged as to seem to support faith in perpetual growth, the religion of the most powerful actors in a commercial society…

…On the one hand, a legion of economists say, “Why worry? An increase in people doesn’t matter…On the other hand, a brigade of environmentalists assert that shortages are real and ultimately decisive”.<42>

In a debate with Dennis Meadows, every time someone asked him how he squared his Malthusian theory with the data I showed, he answered: “Simon looks at the past; I look at the future”. Scientific data, of course, necessarily refer to past.

In an article on the bet, columnist Jessica Mathews said that my views on “finiteness” are “palpable nonsense.”<43> The word “palpable” means felt. No doubt Mathews feels that what I have to say is nonsense; it is indeed not common sense. But feeling is not a scientific argument. And assertions and policy conclusions drawn from feeling – as is often the case in these matters – are likely to mislead us when they run counter to the scientific evidence.

(Typically, Mathews attempts to marginalize me by referring to my ideas as “extreme”. She notes that Ehrlich lost the bet, I won, and then she asserts that the truth apparently is somewhere in between these extremes. Because she derided the bet as being on the wrong matters, I wrote to her: “Would you like to bet on any of these matters? If you can propose a measure or measures for worldwide pollution…I would probably be happy to wager on that one, also.” But she prudently did not respond.)

Why the Vehemence?

From a letter from Margaret Maxey:
25 February 1994

I had the dubious fortune this past May to be an invit- ed panelist in Montreal at an international conference on energy. One of the panelists was with the World Bank. In response to a vitriolic comment from the floor about The Ultimate Resource, which I had praised in my portion of the panel, the nameless [World Bank representative] opined that “Julian Simon is a criminal!”

Perhaps a third of the 1982 presidential address to the Population Association of America was devoted to attack on my work as an “insult” to the demographic profession. That dignitary (in a later book review) called my 1981 book “filled with incomplete analysis, selective documentation, and false analogies,” referred to the “absurdity of Simon’s main arguments”, and summarized by saying that “It is dismaying and more than a little discouraging after more than three decades of concerted effort to bring sense into the analysis of this vital area of human affairs, that a book so lacking in serious merit should receive such widespread attention…This is not an area for frivolous approaches or one where academics may contend confusedly with no great harm to anyone. It is an area where an effective mobilization of public will and commitment based on understanding of issues is essential.”<44>

A World Wildlife Fund official was quoted in the Cox newspapers as saying about me, “The man’s a terrorist.” <45> And here is Garrett Hardin’s innimitable language:

Simon’s conclusions are highly palatable to budget evaders, car salesmen, realtors, advertisers, land speculators, and optimists in general; scientists find them appalling … like the fast change artist at a county fair, befuddles the reader with rapid rhetorical interchanges … sleight of hand …”<46>

When in a taped interchange I asked Hardin why he spoke with such vehemence and used so many ad hominems, he replied that my Science article “raised the blood pressure of the scientific community a good twenty points”.[<47>

A colleague gave a talk about population, resources, and environment to “grassroots lobbyists for U. S. aid programs”. He “commented to the chairman…just before we went to the podium.’ Really you should have had Julian Simon here, not me’ His response was electric: ‘Oh no, not him. We could not afford the cost of all the bodyguards we’d need to keep them (the audience) from tearing him apart'”.<48>

After Garrett Hardin and I debated at the University of Wisconsin in 1989, sociologist William Freudenburg wrote

…to express both admiration and apologies…[because he was] appalled at the “hospitality” that all of us, collectively, offered to you and to your ideas.

The admiration…partly for the equanimity with which you responded to behaviors that I found to be downright childish…I find it quite ironic that the people who think of themselves as “real” scientists were the ones coming up with excuses for not dealing with data, resorting to ad hominem attacks, and generally showing a disdain for scientific methods that I formerly thought would be found only among book-burners…


The attacks have hampered the dissemination of these ideas, just as intended by the attackers; I regret giving them this satisfaction, but so it is. There were many complaints that Science published my first “public” article on the subject. Ehrlich said, “Could the editors have found someone to review Simon’s manuscript who had to take off his shoes to count to 20”?<49> This is part of his judgment that views like mine, like those of “flat-earthers”, should not be published because they are not within the accepted mainstream view. “The notion that the world is flat is not in the spectrum of ideas that must be included in the news for balance. Few reporters or editors, however, have had the basic education that would provide a similar filtering capacity for statements on environmental issues”.[<50> Indeed, the then-editor of Science said he “want[ed] to censor the paper a bit”[<51> And his successor editor at that most important scientific journal in the world withdrew an invitation to me to write an article therein after I told him of the prior incident, which he was not aware of. (The day of the invitation he told me he prided himself on publishing controversial material; the next day, when withdrawing the invitation, he praised my “integrity” in informing him of the previous incident.<52>

Or consider that the most prestigious population research group in the world — Princeton’s Office of Population Research, whose long-time director was a tennis partner of the president of the university — complained to that president that the Princeton University Press should not publish my books. The incident is captured on paper in correspondence between my editor at the Press and the Princeton president. In an article about the incident as part of being an editor, Sanford Thatcher wrote that as a result of the books’ “direct challenge to some of the academic scholarship emanating from Princeton’s own Office of Population Research… various of [its] faculty made their displeasure known to the University’s administration after the book was published”.<53>

Then there is the correspondence between the Mellon Foundation and the august American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), also on paper. A committee of the AAAS sought funds to study the relationship of population, resources, and the environment. Among other potential funding sources, the committee turned to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and received a feasibility grant. This is an excerpt from a letter to AAAS discussing further funding, signed by J. Kellum Smith, Jr., Vice President and Secretary of that foundation:

Because the links among population, resources, and environment are so obvious and strong…I hope the suggestion of an alternative title [to the original one] does not indicate diffidence, in your group, on the matter of facing up to the malign consequences of rapid population increase. Should such diffidence exist, I would suppose that it might cripple the program and that therefore the exercise might as well be halted forthwith…

I am disconerted by the suggestion that there is a problem in handling “the widely divergent views of the Cornucopians and Malthusians”. If by “the Cornucopians” is meant Julian Simon and his few allies, I should think a footnote would be sufficient to dispose of them…

If there is nervousness on the point, it had better be faced up to forthwith. The issue of population increase is central to the proposed program…[<54>

For information about such curious episodes as a campaign to have me fired from the University of Illinois for having written this book, see my 1990 book, Part 8.

I’ll spare you more examples.

Lest the reader be amazed at the human propensity to suppress opposing views, consider the case of as great a philosopher who has lived, David Hume. His History of the Stewarts “was…unquestionably much the most important work that had recently come from any Scotch pen, yet in a periodical instituted for the very purpose of devoting attention to the productions of Scotch authors [The Edinburgh Review], this work of his remained absolutely un-noticed. Why this complete boycott of Hume by his own household? [He was good friends with the staff.]…the ignoring of his writings [can be explained by] the intense odium theologicum which the name of Hume excited at the moment, and which made it imperative, if the new Review was to get justice, that it should be severed from all association with his detested name”.[<55>

All this ugliness ** ** has led others to steer clear of me ** ** even when they believe that the work is sound and the conclusions correct – and even when they refer to themselves as my friends, and say nice things in private. This has been painful as well as damaging. But if I can feel *as if* I’m in the same boat with as great a man as David Hume in at least this respect, that’s considerable comfort.


Lest I leave the impression that the reaction to this book and to the rest of my work on population has been entirely negative, here are excerpts from letters by as great an economist as has lived in the 20th Century, Nobel-prize winning Friedrich Hayek.

URACHSTRASSE 27 D-7800 Freiburg (Breisgau)

March 22, 1981

Dear Professor Simon,

I have never before written a fan letter to a professional colleague, but to discover that you have in your Economics of Population Growth provided the empirical evidence for what with me is the result of a life-time of theoretical speculation, is too exciting an experience not to share it with you. The upshot of my theoretical work has been the conclusion that those traditional rules of conduct (esp. of several property) which led to the greatest increases of the numbers of the groups practicing them leads to their displacing the others — not on “Darwinian” principles but because based on the transmission of learned rules — a concept of evolution which is much older than Darwin. I doubt whether welfare economics has really much helped you to the right conclusions. I claim as little as you do that population growth as such is good — only that it is the cause of the selection of the morals which guide our individual action. It follows, of course, that our fear of a population explosion is unjustified so long as the local increases are the result of groups being able to feed larger numbers, but may become a severe embarrassment if we start subsidizing the growth of groups unable to feed themselves.




Shimoda, Nov. 6, 1981

Dear Professor Simon,

… I have now at last had time to read [The Ultimate Resource] with enthusiastic agreement. So far as practical effect is concerned it ought to be even more important than your theoretical work which I found so exciting because it so strongly supports all the conclusions of the work I have been doing for the last few years. I do not remember whether I explained in my earlier letter that one, perhaps the chief thesis of the book on The Fatal Conceit, the first draft of which I got on paper during the past summer, is that the basic morals of property and honesty, which created our civilization and the modern numbers of mankind, was the outcome of a process of selective evolution, in the course of which always those practices prevailed, which allowed the groups which adopted them to multiply more rapidly (mostly at their periphery among people who already profited from them without yet having fully adopted them.) That was the reason for my enthusiasm for your theoretical work.

Your new book I welcome chiefly for the practical effects I am hoping from it. Though you will be at first much abused, I believe the more intelligent will soon recognize the soundness of your case. And the malicious pleasure of being able to tell most of their fellows what fools they are, should get you the support of the more lively minds about the media. If your publishers want to quote me they are welcome to say that I described it as a first class book of great importance which ought to have great influence on policy….

With best wishes,


F. A. Hayek

*Let’s* @I’ll@ end this Epilog with a quotation from John Stuart Mill in On Liberty:

The worst offence… which can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatise those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men. To calumny of this sort, those who hold any unpopular opinion are peculiarly exposed, because they are in general few and uninfluential, and nobody but themselves feels much interested in seeing justice done them; but this weapon is, from the nature of the case, denied to those who attack a prevailing opinion: they can neither use it with safety to themselves, nor, if they could, would it do anything but recoil on their own cause. In general, opinions contrary to those commonly received can only obtain a hearing by studied moderation of language, and the most cautious avoidance of unnecessary offence, which they hardly ever deviate even in a slight degreee without losing ground: while unmeasured vituperation employed on the side of the prevailing opinion really does deter people from professing contrary opinions, and from listening to those who profess them. <56>


[1]: Los Angeles Times, January 18, 1994, H1.


<1>: I have analysed the reasons why biologists think this way in a paper available upon request.

<2>: November 30, 1003, A22.

<3>: 1961, p. 107.

<4>: Perhaps I can claim priority in this with my 1977 book (Chapter 6) and my 1986 book which reproduces earlier journal articles on the subject, though the recent body of work seems to have developed independently of my formal work (much of it together with Steinmann).

<5>: “Chapter on Environmental Destruction”, unpublished, received in letter from Wayburn dated November 28, 1990, 2638 Yorktown, Apt. 294, Houston, Tx 77056.

<6>: 1994.

<7>: November 24, 1993.

<8>: Wayburn. See endnote 1.

<9>: This comment and several others to follow that are not endnoted is in Tierney, 1990.

<10>: In an Earth Day meeting across the street which was publicized as well as could be, my colleagues and I spoke to an audience of about 20. Hardin and Ehrlich frequently complain about how the media and the public are hugely attracted to our utterances. Of course we sometimes do better than this meeting, but the doomsayers are hardly thrust out of public attention by us.

<11>: Tierney, p. 81.

<12>: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 13, 1993, D1, 4.

<13>: Ehrlich, 1981, cited in Simon, 1990, p. 374.

<14>: Theirs is the only such commentary on an essay in this college text of readings on the environment. And of course my essay is the only one that does not sing in the environmentalist chorus, undoubtedly being included for “balance”. As is often is the case, the editor feels it necessary to follow me with a damage-control squad, lest I mislead innocent minds.

<15>: P. Ehrlich and A. Ehrlich, 1995, p. 22.

<16>: Manuscript of George D. Moffett, The Woodrow Wilson Center, November 17, 1993.

<17>: “Turning Dreams Into Reality”, People, Vol 1, #4, 1989, p. 16.

<18>: Quoted in Tierney.

<19>: Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 1991, p. 229.

<20>: A. and P. Ehrlich, 1994, p. 27.

<21>: The Red and Black (University of Georgia), April 9, 1991).

<22>: Tierney.

<23>: In Social Science Quarterly, reproduced in Simon, 1990, p. 379.

<24>: The Red and The Black. April 9, 1991.

<25>: Dodging Doomsday, in the Horizon series, June 1, 1992.

<26>: Moffett.

<27>: Tierney, p. 81.

<28>: Myers and Simon, 1994.

<29>: Abernethy, 1991. The author, who teaches in a department of psychiatry, is the editor of the journal in which this article appeared. It purports to be an economic argument, but I cannot follow enough of it to criticize it.

<30>: P. and A. Ehrlich, 1991, p. 228.

<31>: 1993, p. 385.

<32>: P. And A. Ehrlich, 1990, p. 20 of galley proofs. Or see their 1991, p. 228: “Julian Simon, a specialist in mail-order marketing”.

<33>: BBC Horizon, p. 18.

<34>: Professor William R. Hawkins, AICF Special Report, April, 1991.

<35>: “Population and Development Within the Ecosphere: A Bibliographic Essay”, xerox, December, 1990.

<36>: Anderton, 1988.

<37>: Simon, 1989.

<38>: Wall Street Journal, September 14, 1992, A10.

<39>: 1925/1959, p. 12

<40>: Ibid, p. 19

<41>: “Editorial: The Dismal Science”, in a magazine of which Asimov was the editor. I possess only the photocopy of this page.

<42>: 1993, pp. 377, 378, 379

<43>: Washington Post, December 14, 1990, A27.

<44>: Kantner and Sirageldin, l982, p. l72

<45>: Mark Plotkin, World Wildlife Fund, Cox Newspapers.

<46>: Garrett Hardin in The New Republic

<47>: Cited in Simon, 1990, p. 396.

<48>: Letter from Peter Samuels, June 28, 1992.

<49>: Cited by Tierney, 1990.

<50>: P. and A. Ehrlich, 1991, p. 229. There is a certain irony in Ehrlich’s frequently lament that I do not understand science, given that I am the author of a text on research methods in social science that has gone through three successful editions (the first being the best seller for a while); basic methods in social science are much the same as research methods in other sciences. Ehrlich also taxes me with lack of quantitative understanding – for example, “count to 20” in the quote preceding this endnote – when I can fairly claim to be the main inventor of the resampling (Monte Carlo) approach to statistics (including the first publication of the bootstrap technique) which is now revolutionising all of that subject; see that same book (Simon, 1969; third edition with P. Burstein, 1985, and other publications on request).

<51>: For full details on this incident, see Simon, 1990, Selection 54.

<52>: See previous footnote.

<53>: Sanford Thatcher, in Rita Simon

<54>: More of the Mellon letter and about the incident may be found in Simon, 1990, Selection 57.

<55>: Rae, /1965, pp. 126-127.

<56>: Mill, 1859/1910, p. 112)

Remembering Julian Simon
Home | Writings | Vita by Date | Vita by Subject | Unpublished Articles | Biography | Resampling | Replies to Critics ]

Edited by: Matthew Munsey ([email protected])
Last updated: June 4, 1998


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