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The Ultimate Resource 2: No. 2 [Paperback]

Julian Lincoln Simon
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 July 1998

Arguing that the ultimate resource is the human imagination coupled to the human spirit, Julian Simon led a vigorous challenge to conventional beliefs about scarcity of energy and natural resources, pollution of the environment, the effects of immigration, and the "perils of overpopulation." The comprehensive data, careful quantitative research, and economic logic contained in the first edition of The Ultimate Resource questioned widely held professional judgments about the threat of overpopulation, and Simon's celebrated bet with Paul Ehrlich about resource prices in the 1980s enhanced the public attention--both pro and con--that greeted this controversial book.

Now Princeton University Press presents a revised and expanded edition of The Ultimate Resource. The new volume is thoroughly updated and provides a concise theory for the observed trends: Population growth and increased income put pressure on supplies of resources. This increases prices, which provides opportunity and incentive for innovation. Eventually the innovative responses are so successful that prices end up below what they were before the shortages occurred. The book also tackles timely issues such as the supposed rate of species extinction, the "vanishing farmland crisis," and the wastefulness of coercive recycling.

In Simon's view, the key factor in natural and world economic growth is our capacity for the creation of new ideas and contributions to knowledge. The more people alive who can be trained to help solve the problems that confront us, the faster we can remove obstacles, and the greater the economic inheritance we shall bequeath to our descendants. In conjunction with the size of the educated population, the key constraint on human progress is the nature of the economic-political system: talented people need economic freedom and security to bring their talents to fruition.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 778 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (21 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691003815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691003818
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 903,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"Julian Simon's 1981 book The Ultimate Resource excoriated prominent environmentalists for resorting to scare tactics and data-bending.... As Simon notes, the past sixteen years have been kind to many of his ideas.... Much as Simon had predicted, global per capita food production edged upward steadily while population rose and air quality improved in many places and ways."--Kathleen Courrier, The Washington Post

"With a full understanding of the opposition and smears he would encounter, Simon nevertheless wrote The Economics of Population Growth, Population Matters, and his best-known book, The Ultimate Resource. To him, the ultimate resource was human intelligence. We should also add, in honor of Simon, the courage to use that intelligence."--Thomas Sowell, Chicago Sun-Times

"The most powerful challenge to be mounted against the principles of popular environmentalism in the last fifteen years."--The Washington Post Book World

"Compelling and often brilliantly original. . . . [Simon's] economic analysis will leave a lot of readers heavily revising their thinking about the world around them."--Fortune

"The Ultimate Resource is the most powerful challenge to be mounted against the principles of popular environmentalism in the last 15 years. . . . What is most startling is its deep-rooted optimism about the human condition. . . . [A] landmark book."--Washington Post Book World

"The truly delightful aspect of the book is its persistent iconoclasm. Page after page, Simon punctures myths of scarcity and offers instead the counsels of optimism."--The American Spectator

"Julian Simon, an economics professor, systematically, shockingly, irresponsibly explodes each and every foundation of the whole environmental movement. And he does so with so many facts, graphs and examples that it would be a strange person who could walk away from reading this book without his or her faith in the assumptions of the environmental movement being just a little bit shaken up. . . . This is a magnificent book with the power to change minds."--Matt Ridley, The Sunday Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Julian Simon takes a huge and effective swipe at the sloppy thinking and willful blindness to facts that characterise so much of the environmental movement.
He hammers home his main argument again and again, so much so that the book is at times a little repetitive (hence the 4-crown (rather than 5-crown) rating). But the argument does need repeating because it is counter-intuitive:- an increasing population ultimately means a higher standard of living for everybody, so long as people are free to manage their lives as they wish, in peace, and under just and democratic government.
Fortunately, he presents mountains of facts to back up his case; in so doing, he demonstrates that the environmental "doomsters", or "doomsayers" (as he calls them), have been consistently wrong in their predictions, over any time-scale longer than a decade. For example, India is now self-sufficient in food; yet Erlich, in The Population Bomb, predicted that it would become so hopeless to try to feed India that the country should just be left to perish unaided.
Do read this book; you will be jolted out of conformist thinking, and pleasantly surprised into the bargain.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Environmentalists are afraid of this book. 11 May 1999
By A Customer
The current environmental movement operates under three basic ideas. First, the condition of the environment is getting worse. Secondly, capitalism and economic growth are bad for the environment. Third, in order to help the environment, we must have massive increases in the size of government.
In this book, Julian Simon shows that everything the environmentalists have been saying is wrong.
First, in the past century, the quality of the environment has gotten better. For example, the pollution that comes from automobiles today is less dangerous than the infectious disease that was spread by horse waste 100 years ago. Secondly, economic growth and technology make is easier to develop, and pay for, newer, cleaner technologies to keep the environment clean. Third, private property rights, private ownership, free markets, and capitalism are the best way to take care of the environment.
Most environmentalists are left wing socialist types who are in favor of massive increases in the size of government. Of course, these environmentalists comletely ignore the fact that Eastern Europe, after 50 years of having no private property rights whatsoever, became the most polluted area that the world has ever had.
During colonial days in America, buffalo, which were onwed by nobody, were nearly hunted to extinction. But today, cattle, which are privately owned, are not in danger of going extinct. When property is privately owned, the owner will take good care of it.
In a free market economy, prices are constantly changing. This gives consumers, and producers, all of the necessary information that they need, in order to determine how to best use resources. For example, whenever there's a big freeze in Florida, the price or oranges goes up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book so far written 10 Dec 2003
Simon shows that things are getting better & that the world is not nearly so bad as the very ignorant Greens suppose it to be. He shows the Greens to be very good on bold predictions but hopeless on accepting refutations or on any follow up of tests.
In economics we are posed problems, especially by population growth. But the price system then puts a bounty on their solution & we not only then solve them but overcompensate & thus make great progress. The sole reason we now have computers is owing to having reached higher population levels. Human beings are the ultimate resource. Most of us leave a positive legacy that will consistute a greater cultral achievement as a result & this will be more wealth for all to enjoy. As Ray Percival said, the legacy of people, especially in their ideas, results in a truism that many might today take as a paradox viz. "the more people there are the easier it is to feed them". But those born later get everything easier, not only food. This is the result of population growth.
Take any part of the world, things will usually be easier & better in the mass urban areas. Thus, in the UK, there is more of all things in London than in Birmingham, but more in Birmingham than in Coventry, but more in Coventry than in Nuneation, & so on, down to a villege with not much in it by comparison. The people will be better off in a hundred years time just owing to this legacy from more & more people.
It seems to be clear that the next three hundred years are going to bear Simon's outlook out as well as the last three hundred. I have read the superficial reviews by the biologist, & others, & noted that many, for some reason, found them helpful. I found them utterly wrongheaded & almost completely thoughtless.
This book shows that Carlye ered badly when he said that economics was "the dismal science". The book is a great joy.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The late, lamented Julian Simon offers a refreshing alternative to the dreary sludge of alarmist stories that lies thick on the newsprint and airwaves of the popular media. In this massive and well-argued tome, Simon gives reason for optimism backed by trends vastly more relevant and stable than those used to justify the scare tactics of environmental pessimists. He not only documents the facts that continue to confound successive generations of Malthusian doomsayers, but identifies the dynamics which allow their ideas to continually regenerate themselves after being debunked by the facts in each successive generation.
Simon gives a philosophical framework for dealing with the broad realm of dreary predictions about the future of mankind. It is this framework which will keep this volume fresh long after the statistics in it have become dated. Simon's core view of humanity as beings that are bent on improving their situation rather than demolishing their surroundings provides a wonderful counterpoint to a wide variety of somber and gloomy scenarios from elitists and pessimists of all stripes. Simon's predictions have proven remarkably accurate over the last fifteen years- buy this book and marvel at how accurate he continues to be even after his untimely death.
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