Thursday, February 13, 2014


I have often cited the Simon-Ehrlich wager in my teaching.  Putting "money where mouth is" is rare and worth noting when it happens.  Seeing an appreciation of markets and prices put to use (Simon) against someone who seems oblivious to them (Ehrlich), and seeing Simon win added to my interest in the episode.

I enjoyed Paul Sabin's stories behind the story as recounted in his The Bet and also the author's discussion with Russ Roberts on Econtalk.  Both try hard to be even handed.  Both bring to life the 1970s-1980s historical context.

From page 181 of the book: "One day in October 1990, Julian Simon picked up his mail at his house in suburban Chevy Chase, Maryland,  In a small enevlope sent from Palo Alto, California, Simon found a sheet of metal prices [the actual subject of the bet] along with a check from Paul Ehrlich for $576.07. There was no note."

Of course. Writing a check is one thing. Eating crow is another. Quit the opposite. The nastiness on both sides just escalated.

I had not known how badly U. of Maryland had treated Simon (page 207). I also did not know how the whole episode impacted Simon's health and seemingly killed him. He died of a heart attack just short of his 66th birthday and just missed news of the arrival of his first grandchild.


Today's LA Times includes "Don't give up the the bullet train, California".  I have not been able to find anyone of the advocate side willing to bet (their own) money on any of the official numerical forecasts re ridership, costs and revenues.