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Krugman Should Study Julian Simon

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Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Paul Krugman argues that economic growth in “China and other emerging economies” will cause real commodity prices to trend upward from here on in (“The Finite World [2],” Dec. 27).

It’s not true that vigorous economic growth necessarily makes resources more scarce.  In fact, history shows that, because of human ingenuity, the opposite is not only possible but prevalent.

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution in the mid-18th century, available supplies of coal, petroleum, iron ore, and most other resources have increased significantly – and, as a result, their real prices have fallen.  These rising resource supplies and falling prices occurred during a time when human population increased by a factor of ten – from 700 million to nearly 7 billion today, at least 4 billion of whom are now part of industrial economies.  So the increase in the number of persons integrated into industrial economies over the past two-plus centuries – from near-zero persons 260 years ago to at least 4 billion persons today – is far larger than is the number of Chinese, Indians, and other peoples now being integrated into industrial economies.

If economic growth since the industrial revolution coincided with increasing resource supplies, why should we expect that continued economic growth will suddenly start to have the opposite, dreary effects predicted by Mr. Krugman?

Donald J. Boudreaux