Down Goes Ehrlich, Gates Gasps in Horror

I’d say that the Club of Rome and Paul Ehrlich were the biggest losers on enviro/economic issues of the 20th century.

Thomas Malthus get’s the prize for the 19th.

Here below is an account of how Bill Gates thinks Paul Ehrlich was maybe wrong–think maybe–when he predicted a famine and overpopulation that would cause world wide suffering and decline.

If you’re paying attention, you know that my hero of economic historians and realistic analysts of the human condition is Julian Simon, author of The Ultimate Resource, (1981) and Ultimate Resource II (1996) that explained why Thomas Malthus was a very ignorant pessimist and Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome were just as bad even though they had a century to consider Malthus’ silly analysis. Simon said that Malthus was wrong because he assumed that humans beings were just animals who could not think or invent or adjust or create and would just reproduce and eat themselves into famine and death like a bunch of cattle.

Not close. There are long and complicated explanations for why Malthus, Ehrlich and the Club of Rome were wrong, why Hong Kong and other hgihly dense cities work, but mostly Ehrlich was wrong for a lack of humility, and the same with the snots from the Club of Rome. They failed to look at the reality on the ground–humans are special, versatile and creative and cannot be analyzed as just herds of things that eat what they find, particularly after they reached a critical level of socialization and sophistication, started to gather as civilizations and cities that resulted in specialists and division of labor.

I would warn you that Bill Gates is rich and smart but not wise. His knowledge on economics and demographics runs to the left and his regrets abut Ehrlich didn’t keep him from being obsessed about population control. He was influenced by another oligarch/plutarch, who was obsessed about the human cancer on the planet–Warren Buffett.

Wish we could use the millions they have spent on birth control to invigorate the western civilizations to increase reproduction and maybe provide some critical improvements in infrastructure in the 3rd world.

Nobody ever said rich guys know how to do charity work.

Now that we have a decline in fertility in the world, Gates won’t be alive when his fears about overpopulation are dispelled. Our problem now is not enough young to support the old, and it will get worse. However, as you can see–Gates is a true believer. And he’s rich, so he will always be able to be a true believer.

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11 responses to “Down Goes Ehrlich, Gates Gasps in Horror

  1. Here’s more shameless self-promotion. It’s a long, boring article that I posted at, an online community of writers. Among other things, it explains the Demographic Transition, the modern understanding of human population. It also contains some special sarcasm about population alarmist, Paul Ehrlich.

    Larry’s Take on the Population Disinformation Bomb

    Enjoy! Click here.

  2. To be fair, Malthus and Ehrlich may have only known progressives.
    That would make their ideas easier to believe.

    • How could Nixon have won? None of his friends voted for Nixon!

    • Correct. The Left does not recognize falsification. Falsification is for peasants. Another thing they do not recognize is ‘total fossilization of thought’ in which one’s hypotheses apply only to some state of nature that no longer existed after, say, 200 years ago. That is Ehrlich’s problem, total fossilization. Those who continue to respect him revere him as a prophet.

  3. By moving Malthus’ life forward by a century, you move his writings out of context. Malthus was writing in the late 18th century, prior to all of the new discoveries and advancement in fundamental scientific knowledge that took place in the 19th century. That doesn’t make him right but it does help to better understand his “thinking”. After all, the world’s most powerful intellect is only as good as the knowledge and information to which it can be harnessed.

  4. Ehrlich is still respected by many on the left. Apparently being major wrong really didn’t affect Ehrlich or his reputation with many.

  5. Malthus was the reason economics got the label the dreary science–he was a pessimist.

    He had a healthy sense of superiority and was wrong. He wasn’t wrong because he had limited information, but because agreed with Darwin that we were just animals and we would reproduce ourselves to extinction.

    There is a socialist element in that presumption–and the wheel goes round.

    The enlightenment was not so enlightened in practice, since enlightened people, partlcularly on the continent, were statist Platonists and not Aristotelians like you and me. Oligarchs always look at the masses of humans as beasts.

  6. Malthus “assumed that humans beings were just animals who could not think or invent or adjust or create and would just reproduce…”

    Two centuries ago, he described Obama supporters.

    A relatively small portion of the populace has done the thinking and creating that led to the advances that proved Malthus and Ehrlich wrong. But with junk science used by demagogues, we could go backwards enough to prove them right.

  7. As a person trained in mathematics I instantly saw the fatal flaw in Malthusianism: it oversimplifies human behavior.
    The ‘Malthusian Catastrophe’ that so enthralled Ehrlich is mathematically inappropriate for anything more complex than a Petri dish.
    Humans are mind-bogglingly unpredictable, and apt to be contrarian.
    Even the number of variables in human behavior is variable.
    The ‘equations’ are non-linear, non-deterministic, and insoluble even by stochastic methods.
    Only Vanity laced with Naiveté could seduce someone using Malthus ‘model’ to believe it could actually produce useful results.

  8. Most famines are politically caused, rather than environmental or from over population. Russia, home of some of the world’s most fertile grain fields was also the home of one of the greatest man made famines in history.

  9. AEI had some work done on China. Even if China follows through with its plans to eliminate the One Child Policy by 2015, over 2/3s of its women don’t want to have more, anyways. It seems the Tiger Moms don’t want any more cubs. China has always been brutal to its people, and the Chinese are by far the most stoic and emotionless when it comes to the dirty deeds.

    The Chinese dragon has a gaping Achilles Heel.

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