Paul Erlich and the rest of the apocalyptic doom-mongers were and are wrong. Asking the question implicit in the doom-mongers predictions, "Are human beings smart enough to overcome scarcities through their intellectual powers?" In his forthcoming book, The End of Doom, and in this twenty-minute video (perfect for watching over lunchtime) Ronald Bailey unequivocally answers “Yes!”
The project, directed by Marian Tupy, pulls together in one location data sets organized into eighteen categories, among them food, health, housing, education, energy, environment, and violence. Want to look at the rise over past decades of caloric intake or the decrease in infant mortality worldwide or in particular countries? Want to look at the relationships between such factors? Want to compare how much food $1,000 would purchase for an Egyptian in 1970 versus 2010? This website, with its powerful search functions, will allow you to do so.
It might seem strange that with falling freedom and diminishing respect for reason and science, the human environment continues to get better, not worse. Historian Scott Powell puts this down to what he calls “The Hank Rearden Effect”—the tremendous ability of entrepreneurs, industrialists and inventors to continue producing, in the face of expanding efforts to slow them down, that “has been masking a fundamental decline that now entails a fall.”
The great irony is that the race to continue proving Erlich and his friends wrong is between producers on one side, and ranged them on the other side are the vast mass of politicians, regulators and cultural mavens who wish to shackle them.
And most of this latter group still take their cue from Erlich, and people like him.
Suggesting that if we want to keep the good news coming, the next great revolution needs to be not just technological, but philosophical.