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The Bet

Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble Over Earth's Future

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Description

In 1980, the iconoclastic economist Julian Simon challenged celebrity biologist Paul Ehrlich to a bet. Their wager on the future prices of five metals captured the public’s imagination as a test of coming prosperity or doom. Ehrlich, author of the landmark book The Population Bomb, predicted that rising populations would cause overconsumption, resource scarcity, and famine—with apocalyptic consequences for humanity. Simon optimistically countered that human welfare would flourish thanks to flexible markets, technological change, and our collective ingenuity.   Simon and Ehrlich’s debate reflected a deepening national conflict over the future of the planet. The Bet weaves the two men’s lives and ideas together with the era’s partisan political clashes over the environment and the role of government. In a lively narrative leading from the dawning environmentalism of the 1960s through the pivotal presidential contest between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and on into the 1990s, Paul Sabin shows how the fight between Ehrlich and Simon—between environmental fears and free-market confidence—helped create the gulf separating environmentalists and their critics today. Drawing insights from both sides, Sabin argues for using social values, rather than economic or biological absolutes, to guide society’s crucial choices relating to climate change, the planet’s health, and our own.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 19, 2013 – Using a highly publicized thousand-dollar wager made between two scholars as a narrative framework, this gem of a book elucidates the extreme polarity between those who believe human ingenuity can solve the world's problems and those who foresee imminent doom. Sabin (Crude Politics) cleverly traces the ideological extremes through the careers of Paul Ehrlich, known for his warnings about explosive population growth, and his lesser known adversary Julian Simon, who advocated that technological advancement and flexible markets would resolve threats of overpopulation. Sabin shows the evolution of both arguments through various presidencies. The Carter administration leaned toward Ehrlich's apocalyptic point of view; whereas Reagan thought Simon's theories fit his own, especially in expanded energy production. The contrast between Al Gore and George W. Bush reflects the deepening polarization in the United States over environmental issues. Sabin offers a reasoned summary of the strengths and weaknesses on both sides, but ultimately he is interested in showing "how intelligent people are drawn to vilify their opponents and to reduce the issue that they care about to stark and divisive terms." To this end, Sabin provides a fascinating and highly readable archaeology of political science in America.
The Bet
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  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Economics
  • Published: Sep 03, 2013
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Seller: Yale University Press
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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