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Resolv’d: The Julian Simon Club

12/07/2011

I’ve posted a couple of times on economics lessons I’ve learned from my kids. Here’s a post from Monday in which I explain subjective value, and here’s another post in which I explain how kids are apparently born Keynesians.

I’ve learned a lot from Jacob (age 3) and Taylor Grace (age 1.5), but their share of responsibility is about to get much larger: we learned today that our third child is due on June 28, 2012. We don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl yet, but we’re both thrilled at the prospect of having another baby and terrified at the prospect of having to switch from man-to-man to zone defense.

One wouldn’t think that an economist’s research program would move the emotions, but I’ve found that the research of Julian Simon helps me love and appreciate my kids in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. Simon’s essential thesis is that the human mind is The Ultimate Resource: more brains mean more ideas, bigger markets, and less suffering. To put it bluntly, Simon showed (convincingly) that we aren’t running out of natural resources and that if anything we need more people, not fewer.

I was also thrilled to learn a few days ago that Bryan Caplan and his wife are expecting their fourth child, a baby girl. Bryan summarizes what he is saying by having a lot of kids in this post: most importantly, “more people make the world a better place” and, as he discusses in his book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, a lot of the sacrifices we make and suffering we endure in the name of our children makes little or no difference to their long-run life outcomes. I discussed his book in a Forbes.com article at the beginning of June. I was also thrilled–and you should be, too–when I learned that my graduate school friends Ryan and Janice Compton are expecting another baby (The Globe and Mail even did a story on them).

Simon’s research shows that fears and worries about “overpopulation” are senseless. Further, expressions of those fears and worries in comments like “it is irresponsible to have more than two children” have gained a wholly undeserved degree of social respectability. As an aside, I think these are expressions of the kinds of non-material status-seeking I discussed in this post. I discussed overpopulation in my 2009 Mises University lecture on “Environmental and Resource Economics,” and I provide some useful (?) links in an accompanying post.

I propose, therefore, that we create the Julian Simon Club. Just as Gregory Mankiw has created the Pigou Club to recognize “an elite group of economists and pundits with the good sense to have publicly advocated higher Pigovian taxes,” I propose that we create the Julian Simon Club to recognize “an elite group of economists and other pundits with the good sense to have publicly advocated having more children.” Bryan is definitely a member, if he chooses to accept, and just so we’re crystal clear: I advocate having more children. Parenthood probably isn’t for everyone, and indeed there are probably a lot of people who are perfectly happy without kids. If you’re on the fence about having another child, whether it is your first or your fifth, I encourage you to take the plunge. I’m pretty sure it’s what Julian Simon would have wanted.

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Contact Art Carden

Art Carden is assistant professor of economics, Brock School of Business, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama.

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