Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

How Freedom Helps us Cooperate to Achieve Superabundance

Posted by M. C. on September 5, 2022

In conclusion, superabundance depends on two main components: people and freedom. People who are free to think, speak, read, publish, and interact with others will generate ideas, and their market-tested ideas will lead to progress. The more people the planet has and the more freedom they enjoy, the greater the likelihood that new good ideas will be generated to tackle current and future problems.

by Gale Pooley and Marian L. Tupy

The following is a summary of Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Plant by Marian L. Tupy and Gale Pooley, reprinted with permission.

In the first part of this book, the human propensity toward the negative is contrasted with the generally improving state of the world. Instead of the apocalypse that humanity has been expecting since the dawn of time, the world has seen great progress. One of the persistent sources of concern about the present state of the world and the future of humanity is population growth. Some people fear this might lead to the exhaustion of resources, thus ending in a calamity for the planet and the species that inhabit it. But there are many reasons why that need not be the case.

In the second part of the book, the concern over population growth and resource abundance is put to an empirical test using the Tupy-Pooley Resource Abundance Framework (see below). The framework uses a new methodology to measure the change in abundance relative to the change in wages. It includes two levels of analysis: a personal level and a population level. To use a pizza analogy, personal resource abundance measures the size of a slice of pizza per person. Population resource abundance measures the size of the entire pizza pie.

Looking at hundreds of commodities, goods, and services spanning two centuries, the authors found that abundance almost invariably grew, often substantially. In general, personal resource abundance grows by more than 3 percent per year, thereby doubling every 20 years or so. The population resource abundance analysis showed that resources have been growing more abundant by more than 4 percent per year, thereby doubling every 16 years or so. Moreover, it showed that humanity is experiencing “superabundance,” a condition where abundance is increasing at a faster rate than the population is growing.

Put differently, the data suggest that a growing population tends to benefit, rather than impoverish, humanity. That vindicates University of Maryland economist Julian Simon’s observation that “Our supplies of natural resources are not finite in any economic sense. Nor does past experience give reason to expect natural resources to become scarcer. Rather, if history is any guide, natural resources will progressively become less costly, hence less scarce, and will constitute a smaller proportion of our expenses in future years.”

In the third part of this book, some of the main reasons for the growth in abundance are examined. Unlike nonhuman animals, people flourish by developing sophisticated ways of cooperating and gaining knowledge. Not only do humans trade more intensively and extensively than other species; more importantly, they constantly innovate. It is innovation that distinguishes relatively slow Smithian growth (a process of adding more people, land, and capital to production processes) from the relatively fast Schumpeterian growth (a process of economic expansion powered by technological change).

The process of innovation, however, can be disruptive and thus threatening to the status quo.

See the rest here

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