Luck or insight? The Simon–Ehrlich bet re-examined

The Simon–Ehrlich bet provides academics with plenty to argue over, but the larger trend is unambiguous – resources are becoming more, not less, abundant in relation to the labour time it takes to ‘buy’ them.

The period since 1900 has been marked by world wars, famines and depressions. Yet population grew at an average rate of 1.33 per cent per year and the five-metal basket of commodities grew more abundant at an average rate of 1.75 per cent per year.

Adding the increase in population and the increase in abundance indicates a combined rate of around 3.08 per cent, indicating a doubling of abundance every 23 years.

These figures are a salutary reminder to those who, like Paul Ehrlich, see resource constraints as limiting economic progress.

In this video, Marian Tupy, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute presents his new paper on this important topic and what it might mean for the post-Covid economy.