We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“And what should our mood be? The population restrictionists say we should be sad and worry. I and many others believe that the trends suggesst joy and celebration at our newfound capacity to support human life – healthily, and with fast-increasing access to education and opportunity all over the world. I believe that the population restrictionists’ hand-wringing view leads to despair and resignation. Our view leads to hope and progress, in the reasonable expectation that that the energetic efforts of humankind will prevail in the future, as they have in the past, to increase worldwide our numbers, our health, our wealth, and our opportunities…..Adding more people causes problems, but people are also the means to solving those problems.”

Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource, 2nd edition, page 588.

The other day, Perry de Havilland took aim at those who would use the violence-backed power of the State to restrict human population. The late Julian Simon had no time for the neo-Malthusian mindset. Among other things, he did not regard wealth as somehow fixed and that if there were more people around, there would be less for each person. We are richer now than we were 100 years ago, and there are more of us. If you want a book that cuts through the crud of the gloomongering cast of mind, this book still ranks up top as one of the very best.

12 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Somewhat related speculation about how many people the planet (as if that’s some kind of limit) can support on Counting Cats.

  • RRS

    There does seem to be some empirical differences in demographics of populations between “successful” and “less successful” social organizations.

    That can occur even within what we regard as a single culture or nation, e.g., Isreal, U.S., U.K. in examining reproduction rates – and- fecudity rates (affecting the potentials for reproduction). The latter to be a problem with a lack of fecund females to match a male population (China??).

    But, as a segment of population becomes more affluent (in terms of what is available) and the discontents that drive wealth creation become more and more trivial, less intense and less wide-spread, we see the reproduction rates tend to decline; further affected by the level and extent of informative education available to women.

  • I am English. It’s one of the World’s real high pop-density countries. 12% (I think) of this country has anything built on it.

  • Tendryakov

    We are differently constituted, in ways which cannot be fully explained, to value things in the world in fundamentally different ways, often incomprehensible to others.
    No amount of explanation of the supposed grace and beauty of football, and even enforced exposure to it has persuaded me that it is anything more than some blokes kicking a ball around. Others are unable to comprehend that what to them is simply twenty minutes of tedious sounds (say, Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht) can provoke in me a profound emotional experience. And vice versa. In all these cases rational argument and persuasion are of limited or no use in enabling the other to comprehend the other’s perceptions.
    So it is with people’s perceived psychological or emotional needs, e.g the fact that some feel a need for space, and contact with the non-human world. To a claustrophile who is happy in the middle of London, my discomfort at being there more than a day or two is bizarre. So is my conviction, which is intuitive, for want of a better word, and not based on rational premises, that the world exclusive of human beings is more than simply a set of resources waiting to be used by human beings.

    Whenever I hear “The world could feed X million people” I ask myself “But why should it?”. When I read something like “Only 10% of the area of the UK is developed” I ask myself “So does that mean we need to develop 100% of it? If not, is there a limit?” This does not, incidentally, mean that I want to exterminate the human race.

    But how do Samizdataists regard the following, which I reiterate from a previous post: Why is it that huge numbers of people take their holidays in places where are few, or as few as possible, human beings? Why do so many Londoners have second homes in the country, not in Sheffield or Birmingham? Why, as reported by the Halifax Building Society, did 2 million Londoners leave London between 1997 and 2006 and settle elsewhere in the UK, overwhelmingly in villages and small towns in the provinces? Why do people pay more for a house with a view of a landscape rather than a view of a housing estate or a car park? Why is property more expensive in the country? Why do people go and look at, photograph and paint landscapes? Why are there property programmes which advocate A New Life in the Country, but not A New Life in Manchester? Why are New Zealand and Canada so attractive as places to emigrate to?

    I believe it is because space and access to the non-human world is an important component in quality of life for a large proportion of the population. There is more to life than food and economics, a rudimentary fact often passed over by Malthus critics. And as for the regular and predictable references to Malthusians crying wolf, are they aware of the outcome of the fable about the boy who cried wolf? – the wolf came.

    Not having heard of Julian Simon before, I read a little bit about him. I note he had a wholly benign view of the benefits of immigration. Somehow, I don’t think he ever came to Brum, walked past Green Lane Mosque as the congregation spilled out after Friday prayers/hate hour, or looked at the car stickers in praise of Bin Laden in Alum Rock. I wonder if his opinions on population are as blithely and naively optimistic as his opinions on immigration.

  • Brad

    The question whether the population is great or small is neutral. To me the lynch pin of libertarianism is disinterest, and knowing when to be so. There is something automatically collectivist when one posits whether a population is too big or too small. To the individual it is irrelevant. It only matters if a person is free or not. Whether a person can gain access to resources or not. It is obvious that the planet is more than big enough to support the people that are on it right now, it’s whether those with a priori collectivist mentalities allow the resources to be exploited (barriers to exploitation usually stemming from some metaphysical good that is damaged by exploitation). It is most relevant today as we are on the cusp of entering a dark age of anti-resource exploitation. As long as we allow the New Nobility to live in their gilded halls with their desires that we serfs be neutered at the appropriate time we will become poorer and poorer and poorer.

  • RRS

    BRAD –

    No, No. The “lynchpin” [?] of Libertarianism is


    One may well conjecture whether most of those identified (or self-identifying) as “Libertarian” are not basically skeptics of our being able to ascertain the (or even “a”) set of ideal of human interactions; and are generally less skeptical of those sets of interactions that we label “Libertarian.”

  • The commenter currently known as Tendryakov wrote:

    Why is property more expensive in the country?

    More expensive than what? Chelsea? Knightsbridge? Kensington? Mayfair? Holland Park? Notting Hill? Belgravia?

    Oh I like the country, it is not an either/or… I just wouldn’t want to live there all the time.

    There is more to life than food and economics, a rudimentary fact often passed over by Malthus critics

    I agree. Those things are only the most important underpinnings of life, not the totality of it. So?

    And Brad said:

    To me the lynch pin of libertarianism is disinterest, and knowing when to be so.


  • Pa Annoyed

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    His views on immigration were purely economic. Islam is an entirely different issue.

    And in my view, a better response would be to encourage their immigration and economic development, but to expect and insist on better integration, to enlist their more active aid against Jihadism, and to make a stronger stand for our own cultural values, vis-a-vis freedom and tolerance. We need to persuade them of the value of freedom, educate them in how to achieve it for themselves, and where better to do that than in places where our culture has control? By example?

    I know not everybody agrees with that, and for the determinedly intransigent Jihadists there do need to be consequences, but Muslims as people have the same right to freedom we do, are descendents of the victims of Islam in many cases, and often they need our help. Think of Muslim women, Muslim children, Muslim dissidents, Muslim apostates trapped amongst intolerant neighbours. Islam is the enemy, not Muslims, as such. Certainly not immigrants.

  • We are richer now than we were 100 years ago,

    Speak for yourself, Johnathan.

  • Whenever I hear “The world could feed X million people” I ask myself “But why should it?”.

    Because to be human is, at its best, something magnificent. Twice as many people means twice as many Newtons , twice as many Shakespeares, and twice as many Columbuses.

    At least it does assuming that you can provide a decent lifestyle and education for eight billion people, and, given that the average level of health and education has been getting better at the same time population has been increasing, I don’t see anything wrong with that assumption. These things are not unrelated. Twice as many people means twice as many Norman Bourlaugs, too.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Good point Michael. I would add that
    sometimes the restrictionists just
    want all the good stuff for themselves
    but overlook how all this wealth was
    created by people. Lots of em.

    James, nope, I am definitely not speaking
    for myself!

  • Well, you are speaking for me: I am certainly much richer than I was 100 years ago.