One of the greatest privileges – stroke of unearned and undeserved good fortune, more accurately – of my life was my being befriended by Julian Simon for the final eight or so years of his too-short life that ended suddenly in February of 1998.  The power, the reach, the penetration, and the uniqueness of his insights have yet to be fully appreciated; far, far from it.

My friend Barry Conner sent me a DVD of a recording of Julian’s October 1981 appearance on William Buckley’s t.v. show “Firing Line.”  I’d no idea until today that Julian ever appeared on Buckley’s justly famous program.  So I devoured the episode (figuratively, of course).  Then I searched for it on YouTube – and found this segment of it.

Julian is the last soul in the Great Beyond who would be surprised that human creativity makes his appearance of nearly 30 years ago so readily available for me to share with you.

Julian – you are deeply, sorely missed.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

comments

29 comments    Share Share    Print    Email

{ 29 comments }

Scott March 30, 2011 at 12:45 am

Indeed!

- Scott

Scott G March 30, 2011 at 1:33 am

Thanks for the link. I’ve scoured the web for videos of Julian Simon, but haven’t found many that contain succinct summaries of his ideas. His videos tend to be longer format and difficult for the masses to consume. Simon’s ideas are potent and powerful, but they’re not currently packaged in a format that allow many people to learn them.

I believe short, succinct videos (under 4 minutes) are more influential than short articles, letters or essays. Videos are more easily consumed by the masses and more personal. Your letters and essays are read by a smaller, more intellectual audience. If you had price, profit and loss signals communicating the influence of your blog posts I believe you would find that there is greater demand, less supply and more profit in videos.

The world could use a dozen short videos covering Simon’s most important contributions. Same for the ideas of Hayek, Buchanan, Schumpeter, Bastiat, and Coase. All you need is a staff who can take your and Dr. Roberts written work and convert it to video. You staff might even include students. A production version of this might look similar to the Kahn Academy: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTFEUsudhfs) but for economics.

You might also try to think of a way to convert some of your letter writing to video; maybe by reading your letters in front of a camera or addressing your target through a short monologue. You could also have someone else read the letters (like a cartoon version of your favorite dead economist).

Another idea is to have your students post their work on the web. One of my engineering teachers did this and it worked very well. Each student has an incentive to do high quality work since it is going to be posted on the web where future employers will see it. Here’s an example: http://www.optics.arizona.edu/optomech/tutorials_in_optomechanics.htm

Speedmaster March 30, 2011 at 1:47 am

It was on ths blog several years ago that I first learned about Julian Simon. I’m much better off because of it. Simon’s books are recommended! ;-)

Prevalent March 30, 2011 at 2:32 am

The Doomslayer! http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.02/ffsimon_pr.html

I watched this 6 part series, it’s pretty good.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLQoa_FA_zo

Martin Brock March 30, 2011 at 4:36 am

I savored every word and regretted the interruption at the end of the clip. He’s truly a great thinker and a thorn in the side of pessimists seeking salvation in an infinite state.

Sanjeev Sabhlok March 30, 2011 at 9:24 am

Thanks. Wonderful thing to share around. I wasn’t aware that the DVD was available. Just ordered it from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003GXE9UU).

For those who follow Julian Simon, join the FB group:
http://www.facebook.com/juliansimon.liberal

Regards
Sanjeev

Krishnan March 30, 2011 at 10:10 am

On http://www.juliansimon.com, there is a segment where he addresses the criticisms he has endured over the years … The attacks are really vicious – what is really interesting (and troubling) is that there are still a great many who would consider Simon a “terrorist” … I am glad he persisted and confronted his critics by doing what he knew bets – write clearly to remind us how precious we humans are

Don Boudreaux March 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

So wrong and so sad. Julian was truly one of the most warm-hearted and kind and gentle human beings who ever breathed.

N. Joseph Potts March 30, 2011 at 11:12 am

The perverted notoriety Simon suffered is directly comparable to the superficial, invidious canard that advocates of free markets and individual responsibility are “heartless, inhuman.”

Quite the contrary, please. Even compassion can be profoundly non-intuitive.

Mao_Dung March 30, 2011 at 11:53 am

I was put off from the start of the interview by the simplistic/false notion that food comes from a supermarket. Buckley quickly jumped from mentioning species loss to wondering about the finite supply of copper on Earth. Simon didn’t answer about extinction (that’s a tough one if you like the natural world of flora and fauna), but moved on to people finding substitutes for the uses of copper. As someone who studied some chemistry and saw Cu on the periodic chart, that bothered me too. Copper is one of the element that make up the universe, a building block so to speak. Copper is also needed in small quantities for human physiology. Who knows what we will need copper for in the future? Substitutes may be found for copper used in plumbing and electrical conduction, but I don’t like the idea of a building block disappearing here on Earth. Btw, mining for gold so people can hoard it and wear it as jewelry is generally destructive to the environment. Humans far more than any other species create toxic byproducts of their modern existence. If you change your car’s oil periodically, you have to do something with the old oil. Your neighbor might not appreciate if you throw it in her backyard. She probably wouldn’t appreciated it if you throw it in your own backyard.

I, for one, would like to see supermarkets become obsolete, but how? Plants make their own food by using their chloroplasts to harness the energy of the Sun. If the gene that makes chloroplasts could be inserted into the human genome, then humans could bask in the sun drinking Perrier (H20 is also need for photosynthesis) to feed themselves. No more need to go shopping for food! One possible downside would be that people will start to look like the little green men from Mars that we always feared would invade our planet.

Sam Grove March 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm

How would copper disappear from earth unless we pack it all up in rockets and launch them away from the planet?

E.G. March 30, 2011 at 6:34 pm

What an incredibly silly argument. Copper production incidentally is about 15 times greater today than it was 100 years ago. You’re saying we should forgo the benefits we derive from copper today, for the possible benefit of future generations without knowing what those might be? And without taking into account the benefits future generations will enjoy from our current use of copper? (copper, can’t be destroyed, no matter how much of it we use. Its still here).

You’re saying we should forgo the benefits of a particular activity, for the benefit of the dodo bird or some other creature, or rather the benefit you enjoy from the dodo bird. But I happened to get no benefit from the dodo…so why should I pay for your supposed benefit?

You’re arguing that we create toxic waste. Everything that lives creates toxic waste. There’s an easy solution, of course; kill yourself.

Mao_Dung March 31, 2011 at 12:25 am

For all you know, the dodo may have provided mankind the cure to cancer, delicious eggs or something else we could use or learn from. And supposes some kids gets pleasure from watching Dodos thrive., that’s beyond an arrogant fool like you to appreciate. We will never know because it was wiped out by inconsiderate killers like you. You deserve to die not me or Dodo birds. Ass.

And yes, the earths resources should be preserved for future generations, not all used up in the one generation that will be gone in a few generations. You’ll be dead not soon enough for me, you selfish blithering slob!

Mao_Dung March 31, 2011 at 2:14 am

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/science/earth/31eisner.html?hpw

Some serious people study bugs. We can learn an immense amount of stuff from them.

Anotherphil March 30, 2011 at 11:54 am

There were several reasons this great man was attacked unfairly. However, the principal reasons was he eviscerated the speciously argued, contrived “crises” that they use to acquire political power.

I would have loved to see him take Al Gore apart like a cheap Happy Meal toy.

Krishnan March 30, 2011 at 1:32 pm

It seems that anyone who dares be an optimist is called all sorts of names – Simon was that eternal optimist who knew (and supported his opinions with data) that humans have always solved problems and that we have always seeked to make life as we know better – for ourselves, our families – that innovation has been the central theme running through our history on this earth …

Let’s not forget that Paul Ehrlich got a MacArthur Genius Award and Al Gore got a Nobel Prize … Visionaries like Simon will not be accepted by the main stream – where they are always seeking gloom and doom – makes them feel better about themselves – they cannot stand to see happy people and human growth and development – All they see is “they are burning fuel” or “why are they driving” or “why are they using electricity to do this-that” …

Ayn Rand identified this self-hatred principle in Atlas Shrugged – and yes today’s wanna be tyrants do want to impose a “Moratorium on Brains” – imagine what would happen if humans were NOT allowed to innovate, to make things better – to have us create alternatives to copper (!) – or oil – or internal combustion engines – or – …

Sam Grove March 30, 2011 at 4:26 pm

So where did the DVD come from?

E.G. March 30, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Don this is really sad. It so sad that even today, throughout academia the Malthusian views are not only common, they are the standard.

The worst part is that I have to be personally involved in such stupidities on a daily bases (thought thank god, its almost over). Just today I read the intro to an article destined for an engineering journal that made me want to cry for the future of the poor engineering profession…Literally 2 pages of the most vitriolic attack on capitalism and “corporations” for “killing millions of people through poverty”. None of it was remotely necessary, since it had no relevance to the content of the paper. At first I thought it was written by some silly RA student, but it turned out it was the work of my advisor.

The funniest part was that they wrote a sentence which said “concerns over sustainability are not new. As early as the 2nd century BC there was concern over our rate of consumption of resources.” :) Which begs the question…and on HOW MANY resources have they been right, since the 2nd century BC? I will do my best to get this thrown out…but I will undoubtedly fail.

But this garbage is not going away. Every single kid graduating in any major, is indoctrinated in Malthusianism. And this may be a criticism of the economic profession, and primarily academicians such as yourself; you have unfortunately failed at making the case more convincingly than the useless human beings that infuse malthusianism and doom-saying into every subject and category in academia.

Krishnan March 30, 2011 at 7:16 pm

When I see such trash from people in the “Liberal Arts” (noy Hayekian economists!) – I dismiss it – since it is to be expected – And yes, when I see if written by a scientist or an engineer, it is painful – I mean, are they that stupid? Do they not know how science and engineering has enabled us to grow beyond our current “limitations”?? What is really depressing is that those that can be very rigorous most of the time – change their personalities when it comes to “global warming” or “helping the poor by taxing the rich” or the usual platitudes and stupidities – Even when confronted by data – they refuse to believe it – and still trot out th usual crap … They are useless – I know a great many people who are good scientists and engineers – but absolute idiots when it comes to basic economics and the system that has benefited the most people around the world – the capitalist system. I have also, to keep my own sanity, simply stopped “arguing” with them – preferring at times to simply send them links – articles, videos that contradict much of their cherished beliefs – It is a mystery as to why so many are so blinded by some hatred of a group of people in industry and business and those that have worked hard to accumulate wealth …

Krishnan March 30, 2011 at 7:16 pm

When I see such trash from people in the “Liberal Arts” (not Hayekian economists!) – I dismiss it – since it is to be expected – And yes, when I see if written by a scientist or an engineer, it is painful – I mean, are they that stupid? Do they not know how science and engineering has enabled us to grow beyond our current “limitations”?? What is really depressing is that those that can be very rigorous most of the time – change their personalities when it comes to “global warming” or “helping the poor by taxing the rich” or the usual platitudes and stupidities – Even when confronted by data – they refuse to believe it – and still trot out th usual crap … They are useless – I know a great many people who are good scientists and engineers – but absolute idiots when it comes to basic economics and the system that has benefited the most people around the world – the capitalist system. I have also, to keep my own sanity, simply stopped “arguing” with them – preferring at times to simply send them links – articles, videos that contradict much of their cherished beliefs – It is a mystery as to why so many are so blinded by some hatred of a group of people in industry and business and those that have worked hard to accumulate wealth …

Krishnan March 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm

When I see such trash from people in the “Liberal Arts” (not Hayekian economists!) – I dismiss it – since it is to be expected – And yes, when I see it written by a scientist or an engineer, it is painful – I mean, are they that stupid? Do they not know how science and engineering has enabled us to grow beyond our current “limitations”?? What is really depressing is that those that can be very rigorous most of the time – change their personalities when it comes to “global warming” or “helping the poor by taxing the rich” or the usual platitudes and stupidities – Even when confronted by data – they refuse to believe it – and still trot out th usual crap … They are useless – I know a great many people who are good scientists and engineers – but absolute idiots when it comes to basic economics and the system that has benefited the most people around the world – the capitalist system. I have also, to keep my own sanity, simply stopped “arguing” with them – preferring at times to simply send them links – articles, videos that contradict much of their cherished beliefs – It is a mystery as to why so many are so blinded by some hatred of a group of people in industry and business and those that have worked hard to accumulate wealth …

E.G. March 30, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Engineers and scientists, by and large, are very easily susceptible to such notions; we already think we are better then everyone else. The problem is that they think that by being academicians in one field, they know about other fields too…so you get an idiotic 2 page attack on, well, modern human history, in a paper dealing with product design tools. Its a major WTF moment.

The worst, of course, is the “liberal arts” academician who isn’t actually knowledgeable in anything in particular, and therefore thinks they are experts in everything in particular.

Krishnan March 30, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Apologies … I was trying to correct some typos – did not want it three times like this …

Harold Cockerill March 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

If it bleeds it leads is the mantra of the media which means the sensational and awful will get the headlines. Chicken Little gets the megaphone and our professional saviors point to the headlines and promise whatever it takes to get elected. The fatal defect resides in the heart of those willing to believe the lie that giving control of their life to a politician will somehow make that life better.

PlayDumb March 31, 2011 at 3:59 am

Don,
is the DVD copyleft protected. Would appreciate the resources spent on uploading the contents youtube if possible. Thanks!

PlayDumb March 31, 2011 at 4:00 am

Don,
is the DVD copyleft protected? Would appreciate the resources spent on uploading the contents on youtube, if possible. Thanks!

Eric Hammer March 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I was really excited to see Simon (whom I have never heard interviewed) as well as Firing Line, which I grew up with as a kid. I was fairly sad to see it was such a short clip :(

PlayDumb: Apparently you can order the DVDs of specific episodes off Amazon for 10$ a pop. That strikes me as a bit salty, but then they are 1 hour long. I would pretty happily pay 80-100$ for the whole series run, but I might have to wait till I have a better job to get them all at that price.

Sam Grove March 31, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Here is an online version of The Ultimate Resource
http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/

ecovillage.com April 8, 2011 at 3:33 am

At first I thought it was written by some silly RA student, but it turned out it was the work of my advisor…Thanks

Previous post:

Next post: