by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Advocates of an ever-larger state, remembering Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural address (seeking “broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe”), declare “wars” on this and that (poverty, cancer, drugs, global warming, etc.). …
… [S]carcities are recyclable excuses for expanding government: There are so many things that alarmists can be alarmed about possibly becoming scarce and therefore supposedly requiring government rationers. Because there is an inexhaustible, because renewable, supply of alarmists, Washington’s libertarian Cato Institute has created the Simon Abundance Index to refute them.
Its name honors the late Julian Simon, an economist who won a famous bet with Paul Ehrlich, the Stanford hysteric whose 1968 book The Population Bomb predicted that “hundreds of millions of people” would starve to death in the 1970s as population growth swamped agriculture production. Simon’s 1980 wager was that any five commodities that Ehrlich would pick would be cheaper in 1990. Ehrlich picked five metals. All were cheaper in 1990. …
… “Peak oil” has been exasperatingly (to eco-pessimists) elusive. In 1914, the U.S. government said oil reserves would be exhausted by 1924. In 1939, it said the world’s reserves would be gone in 13 years. In 1951, after oil fueled a global war and the postwar boom, the government again said the world had 13 years of proven reserves. By 1970, however, there were 612 billion barrels, and by 2006, after another 767 billion barrels had been pumped, there were estimated to be 1.2 trillion.
Along came fracking, which has illustrated one of Cato’s points: Unforeseen technologies continually alter the relationship between population growth (which is beneficial: people are, as Simon said, “the ultimate resource”) and resource availability.