Julian Simon

by Don Boudreaux on September 19, 2008

in Standard of Living, Video

The three scholars who have had the the greatest impact on my own thinking are F.A. Hayek, James Buchanan, and Julian Simon.

I just found this nine-minute-long video of Julian Simon summarizing his vital idea of "the ultimate resource."  This idea is one of the most profound — and least understood — in all of the social sciences.

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{ 10 comments }

Ken September 19, 2008 at 8:13 pm

So how many kids do you have?

Oil Shock September 19, 2008 at 10:02 pm
Mauro Mello Jr. September 20, 2008 at 4:40 am

Very cogent presentation!

“We need our problems. And in some fundamental way, we need bigger and better problems.” (At the 6'20" mark).

What could be more Hayekian than this? Competition as a discovery procedure? The use of knowledge in society?

People create knowledge, so the more the better.

Per Kurowski September 20, 2008 at 8:42 am

What Julian Simon is saying is that we need greater problems so as to be able to rise to the occasion. Thank God then for the credit rating agencies leading us over the lousily awarded subprime mortgages!

Does Simon mean we have to create the right incentives for messing things up? Does he now want to nominate the financial regulators for a joint Nobel Prize for having imposed the credit rating agencies’ information monopoly on the market?

Don Boudreaux September 20, 2008 at 10:43 am

Per Kurowski,

Please listen to Julian Simon again — and read his works. He doesn't recommend problems; he points out that a free people are generally much more able than is commonly supposed to rise in creative ways to meet challenges presented by problems that arise.

Martin Brock September 20, 2008 at 11:07 am

Your video is the first of a series of six. Here's a recommendation of the rest. I can also recommend three of Simon's books, the ever popular Ultimate Resource, Good Mood and his last book, It's Getting Better All the Time. You gotta love a bald geek with big ears who understands the power of positive thinking.

The collapse of so much "wealth" lately is worrisome, but real wealth continues to grow. The greatest threat in this decade is the fierce battle among all the would be retirees for entitlements to consume the yield of this wealth without producing much of it. How much of your pension fund is "invested" in annuities at AIG? How many corporate pension funds were liquidated to buy these annuities? That's the question. Be confident that real wealth will go on rising, but don't fool yourself the statesmen and their entitlement games.

Per Kurowski September 20, 2008 at 11:20 am

Don Boudreaux quotes Simon saying “a free people are generally much more able than is commonly supposed to rise in creative ways to meet challenges presented by problems that arise.”

And with that I agree! And, a free people, not forced to follow the criteria of some appointed credit rating agencies, is also less likely to create problems such as those currently confronted in the financial system…do you agree?

Don Boudreaux September 20, 2008 at 11:27 am

Clarification: the words that Per Kurowski says are my quotation of Julian Simon are, in fact, not a quotation. They are my summary of my understanding of one of Simon's chief insights.

Sam Grove September 20, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Simon was referring to the problems of survival, not the problems created by political power. But, then again, information technology may actually enable people to get a handle on the problems of political power.

SheetWise September 21, 2008 at 4:08 am

"… a free people, not forced to follow the criteria of some appointed credit rating agencies, is also less likely to create problems such as those currently confronted in the financial system …"

Free people have slavery as an option.

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