Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Old Time Religion

Julian Simon won his famous bet with Paul Ehrlich re resource depletion almost 10 years ago. The bet and the win received media coverage but that was that. What looked like a neat refutation to economists (long-term commodity prices keep falling, corroborating the idea that human inventiveness staves off increasing resource scarcity) did not make much of an impact in the rest of the world. In a Letter to the Editor of last Sunday's NY Times Book Review, Don Boudreaux reminded the Review's readers (and editors) that a reviewer of Ehrlich's latest book had completely missed this episode as well as any of its implications.

This is common input selectivity and reminds us once again that we are talking about a modern secular religion rather than economics or biology or meteorology or any of the other relevant sciences.

The piece by Clifford Orwin in the Spring 2004 edition of The Public Interest makes a related and relevant point. We hear all the time that "that old-time religion" is still strong in the U.S. Not really, says Orwin, in a very thoughtful discussion of organized religion in modern America.