Sunday, February 01, 2004

A growing list of studies echoes the Cox and Alm theme. Julian Simon devoted the better part of a scholarly career to gathering the evidence (some of it recently updated by Indur M. Goklany (2001) "Economic Growth and the State of Humanity", PERC #PS-21). Bjorn Lomborg has given the doomsayers even more to think about. Nevertheless, there is always plenty to worry about in our imperfect world. The burst of U.S. economic prosperity enhancement of the 1990s gave way to a predictable and modest downturn (made worse by thoroughly unpredictable international events). The downturn has abated and the recovery is now scorned by many as being "jobless" -- just like the one 10 years ago when similar claims were muted by spectacular job gains of the late 1990s.

The beat goes on but a recent review of a crop of 1990s economic post-mortems (LA Times book review by Peter G. Gosselin, Feb 1) reaches the conclusion that the real problem is increased uncertainty: "The new economic uncertainty: Nothing is certain." Beyond the truism about uncertainty, to what extent is there actually less of it? Hard to measure and plot but easy to reflect on. I much prefer the state of uncertainty that I experience in the age of, say, antibiotics than any other.