Monday, May 17, 2010

Am I an Optimist or a Pessimist? Absolutely!

When it comes to life on this planet (excluding any spiritual outlook), I am both an optimist and a pessimist.

(Begin faux Spanish accent) Lemme 'splain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up.

When it comes to government and how much I think that politicians and bureaucrats can screw up a society and an economy, I am very bearish. I ultimately think that governments eventually do more harm than good (maybe not just yet, but we are quickly approaching that point).

However, when it comes to human ingenuity, our ability to improve and adapt to circumstances is virtually limitless. I'm a big fan of the late Dr. Julian Simon who had an eternal optimism about how human capacity for innovation, adaptation, and invention was producing a better world, despite Malthusian naysayers. He famously placed a bet with well-known environmental scientist Paul Ehrlich who predicted worldwide shortages of all kinds of commodities. Simon bet him that the price of 5 key metals would decrease over a period of ten years. Ehrlich gladly took the bet and lost his shirt. It's also relevant to note that Ehrlich was wrong about almost every 'environmental catastrophe' prediction he ever made. Simon has since proved to be right about most of his predictions.

The reason I bring this up is because I recently started following a similarly-themed blog by Matt Ridley called the Rational Optimist. He also has a new book out by the same title. Yesterday there was an excerpt from the book on the London Times website. I highly recommend it.

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