The ultimate resource, argued Julian Simon the economist and environmental optimist, is human imagination, intelligence and resourcefulness. This is the source of all human progress. “For the latter half of the 20th century, natural resources have had little to do with America’s bountiful economic growth. Almost all progress since 1950 has been a result of the human intellect, not resources dug from the earth. [Australia, take note!].”


Then Simons amassed data and graphs to demonstrate that “the free countries are the rich countries,” whilst those with repressive regimes become the poorest. He showed that it is difficult, if not impossible, to tap into the creative energies of these human resources where government regulations and interference is restrictive, coercive and oppressive. “Repression by government short-circuits the human spirit and produces sustained periods of stagnation and even anti-progress…The enduring lesson of the 20th century is that the only real restraint on progress is a government that smothers the human spirit.”


Sit back and enjoy Julian Simon’s grand and inspiring conclusion:


The major constraint upon the human capacity to enjoy unlimited minerals, energy, and other raw materials at acceptable prices is knowledge. And the source of knowledge is the human mind. Ultimately, then, the key constraint is human imagination acting together with educated skills.  This is why an increase of human beings, along with causing an additional consumption of resources, constitutes a crucial addition to the stock of natural resources.


We must remember, however, that human imagination can flourish only if the economic system gives individuals the freedom to exercise their talents and to take advantage of opportunities.  So another crucial element in the economics of resources and population is the extent to which the political-legal-economic system provides personal freedom from government coercion.  Skilled persons require an appropriate framework that provides incentives for working hard and taking risks, enabling their talents to flower and come to fruition.  The key elements of such a framework are economic liberty, respect for property, and fair and sensible rules of the market that are enforced equally for all.


We – humanity –should be throwing ourselves the party to outdo all parties, a combination graduation-wedding-birthday-all-rites-of passage party to mark our emergence from a death-dominated world of raw-material scarcity.  Sing, dance, be merry – and work.  But instead we see gloomy faces.  They are spoilsports, and they have bad effects.


The spoilsports accuse our generations of having a party – at the expense of generations to come.  But it is those who use the government to their own advantage who are having a party at the expense of others – the bureaucrats, the grants-grabbers, the subsidy-looters. Don’t let them spoil our merry day.