Ron Bailey on "The End of Doom"

"Are human beings smart enough to overcome scarcities through their intellectual powers?"

Reason science correspondent Ron Bailey says this is the question that scientists and economists have been grappling with for decades. In a talk in front of a live, in-studio audience at Reason's LA headquarters, Bailey answered that question with a resounding, "Yes!"

Bailey previewed his upcoming book, The End of Doom, in this thought-provoking talk of the same name. By documenting numerous errors in prediction from the past, from Paul Ehlrich's famous commodities bet with Julian Simon to unfounded concerns about "peak oil," Bailey takes on the doomsayers and argues that it's much more rational to expect a more prosperous, resource-rich, and ecologically sound future than it is to fear armageddon.

Approximately 20 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Alex Manning, Paul Detrick, and Tracy Oppenheimer.

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  • Raston Bot||

    Just 3D print a replacement kidney already!

  • sarcasmic||

    "The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics."
    -Thomas Sowell

  • Restoras||

    Yeah, this. While we may be intelligent enough to eliminate or minimize the effects of scarcity, we are also dumb enough to elect politicians to create it.

    Politicians create scarcity to justify their power of office.

  • sarcasmic||

    Uh, no. Wrong interpretation.

    I don't think scarcity can be eliminated. Some things can be made minimally scarce, and we see that when they are sold at a low price. They're less scarce than an equivalent item selling at a higher price. Supply and demand and all of that.

    Politicians disregard this by promising universal access (the elimination of scarcity), by price controls (eliminating the unfairness of some goods being more or less scarce than others), licensing rules, protective tariffs, and other manipulations of the economy.

    If anything their actions have the opposite of their intended effect because markets and prices just work. Markets are not fair in the sense of equality of outcome and everyone getting what they want, but they satisfy consumer demands much better than government.

  • mtrueman||

    I don't see the importance of scarcity. There are some billion in the world today undernourished. This is not due to scarcity as the world has never produced so much food as is produced today.

    Scarcity is also not something we find in the digital world where the file I create and use is no different from the file I delete.

  • JidaKida||

    Sometimes man, you jsut have to roll with it.

  • Swiss Servator, Sail Genfersee||

    Norm Muther F'in' Borlaug FTW!

  • Tman||

    Every time I tell people who he is they always act completely astonished that he isn't more of a household name.

    Part of the is due to Norman's humility, as he never attempted to stand in any spotlight, but I think the other part of it is that he made so many of the TOP. MEN. look absolutely foolish that he's been purposefully shunned by academia.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Man, I was afraid he was talking about Daniel Dumile. I don't often listen to hip-hop, but when I do, I make sure it's one of his personas. King Geedorah is my favorite. The backing track in "Anti-Matter" is almost too catchy.

  • Steve G||

    It's absolutely possible. It's also absolutely the opposite of freedom in too many cases since at some point someone has to translate "intellectual powers" into action... to the chagrin, and freedom of others.

  • Restoras||

    I don't follow.

  • ||

    I think the point is that humans have the ability to solve problems such as the population growth doomsday scenario posited by Paul Ehlrich through our creativity. Free markets unleash this creativity and allows us to send signals through the pricing mechanism that aid in making competing choices, while government intervention stifles said creativity and leads to the misallocation of scarce resources.

  • Steve G||

    "Are human beings smart enough to overcome scarcities through their intellectual powers?"

    Some are smart enough, but most aren't (ie low info voters) and they will have to be coerced into following the smart's lead sometimes at the expense of their freedom.

    Apologies if I stretch this analogy too far, but take "good health" as a scarcity. I'm one of those crazies who thinks you could all but eliminate heard disease/diabetes through diet alone. Say the science is settled (it nearly is in fact) and the "smart" people agree, but there's this sticky little problem: people still want to eat what they want to eat because they are free to do. Sometimes the free market/pricing signals do not convince people to do the right thing.

  • ||

    "Sometimes the free market/pricing signals do not convince people to do the right thing."

    Who's anyone to say what the "right" thing is. If people make that choice, it just means they've decided they'd rather indulge in something they enjoy now than live longer. Whether that's wrong or right is subjective. You're perfectly free to disseminate the information that points to fact that diet alone eliminates heart disease/diabetes. It's not a question of right/wrong. It's a question of risk/reward.

  • JWatts||

    they will have to be coerced into following the smart's lead sometimes at the expense of their freedom.

    Was that a quote from Stalin or Mao?

  • Sevo||

    "Sometimes the free market/pricing signals do not convince people to do the right thing."

    Fuck off, slaver.
    Who are you do decide what's right for another?


    Yeah, but there's not a lot of money to be made selling books predicting "innovations adapting to changing demand dynamics" etc.

    DOOM is a lot easier to spell, too.

  • Tman||

    “The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.” ―John Stapp

  • ||

    Thanks Ron great speech...look forward to the book.

  • KarrenMahoney123||

    Im making over $13k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.last month her pay check was $12712 just working on the laptop for a few hours. This is what I do,------

  • JWatts||

    In 5 years if Global Warming is still paused the IPCC will:

    a) admit they were wrong
    b) ignore it and publish a report that is similar to the one they just published
    c) admit that global warming has paused not increased significantly , but attribute it to some short term factor and claim that it will resume anytime now.

    Any bets on the likelihood of A happening?

  • BarbaraWHadley||

    My last pay check was 9500 dolr working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is what I do----------

  • SQRLSY One||

    • BarbaraWHadley|11.5.13 @ 9:22PM|# My last pay check was… Hey Babs Wadley-Paddly, I can offer you a LOT more than THAT, what with my FAT welfare check from mooching off of Government Almighty, if you will just cum on over heah and paddle my Paddly Waddly GOOD and HARD! Skanky Bee-Yotch that U R!!!

  • advancedatheist||

    "Are human beings smart enough to overcome scarcities through their intellectual powers?"

    Of course. But libertarians got upset when we figured out how to do that with the scarcity of Element 79 on the periodic table through the invention of fiat money.

    Funny how libertarians have this weird Malthusian belief about gold and cornucopian beliefs about every other element in Periodic Table.

  • PH2050||

    Herp derp.

  • Car Scanner||

    Good article! :)

  • lowrads||

    Despite being somehow disproven annually, Nature's usual economy still seems to form the Charybdis around which all of our efforts seem to gyre.

    Carrying capacity is just another word for equilibrium, whether we apply it to supply and demand, or compound growth and finite stored energy.

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