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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/19762/resolvd-the-julian-simon-club/

Resolv’d: The Julian Simon Club

December 7, 2011 by

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.


Jim December 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Congratulations! I, too, will be joining this newly founded Julian Simon Club in a few months.

RTB December 7, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Well said. One huge caveat being that we’re all self-sufficient. Too many people having too many kids just going on the dole.

Jim Fedako December 7, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I hope my seven children qualify me.

Gil December 8, 2011 at 12:26 am

Humans aren’t fungible. Some people do enrich society however many people also destroy scoiety. I’m Austrian economics would argue the world would have been a better place had Keynes never been born. Similarly, the poorest parts of the world are that way because of bad humans and power.

John P. December 8, 2011 at 7:27 am

You nor I know that. To argue that would be conceited and perhaps fatal.

In regards to Keynes not being born.

Dave Albin December 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm

People destroy society with the help of the state – power, as you indicate.

Gil December 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm

There’s no such thing as an external power called the “state”. People act, period.

Tom Bogle December 8, 2011 at 1:03 am

It was just under two years ago when I sat in my first conference for economics teachers: The Right Start Institute put on by the Foundation for Teaching Economics and the Arizona Council on Economic Education. I was asked to critique and article that was very Malthusian in nature. My simple argument (although not entirely without defect) was that an increase in the human population increases the generally accepted factors of production, save “land,” or at least the potential thereof. More hands means more potential labor. More minds, even uneducated ones, means potential for more ideas, innovation, and “mental capital”. Ultimately, more people creates both an increased demand for and potential supply of entrepreneurial spirit. I guess it can be best summed up with a quote from my father. When people would ask him what his motivation was for having ten children, he would simply reply, “I wanted to have enough kids so that I never had to wash the dishes.”

Oklahoma Libertarian December 8, 2011 at 4:19 am

More LIBERTARIAN kids make the world a much better place, too.

iawai December 8, 2011 at 8:51 am

The optimum number of created children is a based on economic balancing (e.g. “raise more kids who are less educated or inherit less property, or raise less kids who are given more advantage?” or “Do I want more personal time, business or pleasure, or do I want to devote time to a child?”), and is therefore subjective.

All we can say is that without some mechanism to translate these subjective values into a comparable objective measure, there can be no determination of an “optimum”.

nate-m December 8, 2011 at 9:50 am

The optimum level of children is the amount that parents are able, willing, and wanting to support on their own.

As such it is subjective to individual choice.

EconAndre December 8, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Sign me up, Art. For parents, the marginal cost in terms of time and effort is not linear as the number of children increase. This is the beautiful secret: parents’ marginal work effort decreases as the older children begin to take on more responsibility and can take care of themselves. So, the thresshold number of children for the marginal work effort to begin to fall may be around 3. After 3 children (so the oldest child is about 5 or 6), the older ones increase familial productivity with their contributions. So, I think parents get overwelmed (it is a lot of work, taking preference over other uses of time) at this thresshold of 3 and despair of having more children. But, if they maintain the low time-preference outlook, parents will eventually be awarded with more labor hours of help, making their lives easier.

Francois Tremblay December 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Yes, let’s rehash already-debunked arguments and introduce more suffering into this world because it makes you feel like more of a man. Wonderful. As the kids say, “off the hook.”

Will you also come crying to your clubhouse when your child gets a disease or gets into an accident or gets abused in ways that you couldn’t prevent, or will you censor those parts?

Jim December 8, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Well, you’re a lovely human being aren’t you? Surely it makes you feel like more of a man to type things to strangers that, if said in person, would probably have you bleeding and trying to find your spat out teeth. What a wonderful, joyful person you must be.

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Can you answer the question in place of ad homineming François, Jim?

Jim December 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Why David, of course I can!

“Will you also come crying to your clubhouse when your child gets a disease or gets into an accident or gets abused in ways that you couldn’t prevent, or will you censor those parts?”

No. No he won’t.

Matt December 9, 2011 at 1:51 am

I don’t want kids. In fact, I find them somewhat repulsive. But I do celebrate other people having them and having more. Do I qualify for membership?

Joseph Hertzlinger December 12, 2011 at 3:00 am

You qualify for the cheerleading squad of this team … and every child that’s born counts as a touchdown.

Dagnytg December 9, 2011 at 5:35 am

When I read Art’s post, I had to ask myself what hell does having children have to do with Austrian economics much less libertarian thought.

As a libertarian, I hold the view that what people do with their person and property is their business. At the same time, I believe it is incredibly inappropriate as libertarians (or non-libertarians for that matter) to brag and espouse a lifestyle choice.

Am I to believe that if I was a polygamist that it would be appropriate for me to brag on the virtues of polygamy by sharing the new addition to our family…my new 19-year-old wife?

Alternatively, what if I was I was gay and wanted to write on the virtues of the gay lifestyle?

I could go on but I think the point is apparent… at least to those libertarians who aren’t socially inept.

Daniel December 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Bragging and espousing a particular lifestyle would fall under the category of persuasion and is, therefore, “libertarian”.

Dagnytg December 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm


No…you miss the point….do you really think an article on mises.org professing the economic virtues of abortion is appropriate? Really? (Apparently, the examples of polygamy and homosexuality weren’t clear enough.)

Did you read my post…do you have the ability to infer? Libertarianism is about espousing the virtues of property rights and non-aggression…not about what personal choices you make in regards to your property.

Sione December 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm


Well actually….. the personal choices you make in regards to your own property are an expression of property rights and non-aggression (I assume, Dagynytg, you are not one to be initiating aggression against others). Hence, those personal choices are expression of Libertarianism and therefore relevant. After all, words are cheap. Action is the strongest way to “espouse” a principle. Don’t just talk about it. Do it. Live it.


PS. There is a saying, “To much talk-ee. Not enough do-ee.” Something to think about.

Dagnytg December 20, 2011 at 5:32 am


Wow…it’s only by happenstance that I saw your comment under Recent Comments…otherwise, I would never have known especially since they eliminated the email alerts. Let me also add, I have read your posts for some time and I enjoy many of your comments.

Pleasantries aside, if I understand you correctly, you are saying how I express my freedom is an expression of my libertarianism but I have to respectfully disagree.

Libertarianism is a very simple (narrow) ethical concept. I define it as free will within the parameters of property rights and non-aggression. However, within those parameters, libertarian ethics does not define our actions as ethical or moral.

I believe most non-libertarians and some libertarians are unaware of this distinction. In many ways, the distinction is not only intellectual but also a sign of philosophical maturity.

Art’s post is definitely in violation of this distinction.

As far as “live it” and “do it”, I do not believe libertarianism can be expressed in terms of actions. As I mentioned above, Libertarianism is a very narrow ethical concept. It’s not about what to do. It’s about what NOT to do – like being violent towards others and violating their property.

If I had to put it in simple terms – to be libertarian is to live life as you choose to live it and mind your own business…nothing more.

Don Boudreaux December 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

Well, at 53 I must now remain content with my one, 14-year-old son. But I certainly advocate growing populations in societies reasonably enough free to spark human creativity and leverage it for human betterment. I’m in the Club!

Joseph Zoric December 9, 2011 at 9:20 am

People are resources and we need more of them. Please sign me up.

Speedmaster December 9, 2011 at 9:57 am

I’m on board! ;-)

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm

What a moron natalo-capitalist you are, Carden!

John December 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm

A Julian Simon Club? Great idea. Where I do sign up?

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Natalists anarcho-capitalists for bigger government… Are you f****** crazy?

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm


Jim December 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm

So … who is crazy, again? Let’s calm down a minute, Berzerkobot.

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Natalists anarcho-capitalists for bigger governement… Are you fucking crazy?

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Natalists anarcho-capitalists for bigger governement… Are you f****** crazy?

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Natalists anarcho-capitalists for bigger government… Are you crazy or what?

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Oops, sorry for the silly replication. My bad. I thought I was censored.

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm

“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.”

It’s irresponsible to have any child, except for adoption (children you kill by your procreation).

Daniel December 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm

How many people post under your pseudonym?

PS: how come you’re so civil up way up there and down here you’re crazy?

Richie December 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm

You must really hate your parents. Much self-loathing with these anti-natalists.

David Gendron December 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I love my parents, and one of the main reasons that explains why I’m an anti-natalist (in an anarchist mode, I’m against statist control of birth like in China) is that I know how far that many parents could be bad for their children.

There’s only one myself here.

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