the simon- ehrlich bet

“If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” – Paul Ehrlich, 1971

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published the book “The Population Bomb”. The first couple sentences of the book set the tone for the entire book:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spiteof any crash programs embarked upon now. (p. xi)

…a minimum of ten million people, most of them children, will starve to death during each year of the 1970s. But this is a mere handful compared to the numbers that will be starving before the end of the century (p. 3)

In hindsight, the claim is ludicrous. Even sites with extreme bias report even now that only 7.5 million die max per year. This is all while food production per capita is rising every year since Ehrlich’s prediction. Ehrlich was making the claim that an increasing population would put increases pressures on the world’s resources leading to these mass catastrophes. He was predicting that a increasing population would destroy the world. In his book he gives three scenarios (imaginative stores meant to scare us about the coming disaster):

The first scenario deals with a president facing political pressure because the amount of food produced is declining at 15% or more per year. A telling statement is uttered by an Ehrlich-friendly character: “The poor slob still thinks politics and economics are more important than ecology.” This results in chemical war that reduces the population drastically.

The second scenario deals with a deadly disease that wipes out large sections of humanity. The world succumbs because people are starving and hungry. The survivors implement “strict population control” as their remedy.

The third scenario describes a case in which strict population control is taken rapidly, averting a total collapse of the world. Although 70 million still die per year due to starvation, the population control averts the worst.

In 2013, it is clear Ehrlich was ludicrous. But in his day, these teachings made him a celebrity.

Of course, while Ehrlich was preaching death and destruction due to increasing population the exact opposite occurred. Human wellbeing skyrocketed. People began living longer, better, happier lives. How was Ehrlich rewarded? A noble prize and academic renown.

Another, lesser known economist, Julian Simon, predicted the exact opposite of Ehrlich. He understood that increasing populations were good. Human ingenuity is the ultimate resource, not soil, oil, and wheat.

In 1980, Simon decided to wager Ehrlich. Of course, Ehrlich would not bet on his actual predictions (such as England not existing in 2000 or mass starvation). Instead they would bet on commodity prices of a select few resources. If the commodities rose in price, they were becoming more scarce. If the commodities dropped in price, they were becoming more abundant. For good measure, Simon allowed Ehrlich to pick the commodities.

Of course all Ehrlich’s predictions failed. If he was an Old Testament prophet, he would have been covered with enough stones to be legally declared a mountain. But tellingly, a bet designed to be very attractive to Ehrlich (in which he was picking the variables) was also one he lost. Ehrlich defenders claim that this is only a coincidence. If the bet dates or timeframe shifts, Ehrlich could have won. Because defenders are ludicrous people, they also point out that Simon did not want to take a followup bet which bet on things like the amount of topsoil in the future (what topsoil has to do with overall wellbeing is beyond me). But what the critics ignore is that is all beside the point. Ehrlich was predicting mass starvation, destruction and death. Even if Ehrlich won by a couple hundred dollars, he still would be ridiculously far from his real predictions.

To top it all off, Ehrlich was militantly wrong and arrogant. He cursed out those who were his ideological opponents, even as their predictions were coming true.

Where is Ehrlich now? He is now a defender of Global Warming alarmism, even as the warming rate has stopped and the ice is increasing in the arctic. Ehrlich’s name appeared in the Climategate leaked emails. This is very telling about the intellectual honesty of Climate alarmists. Where are the bets?

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Economics, Human Nature, Hypocrisy, Leftists, Science, Standard of Living. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to the simon- ehrlich bet

  1. Pingback: the terrible ending of the bet | reality is not optional

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