I have a new working paper which has been submitted to the Review of Austrian Economics for a special issue on the late Julian Simon. The paper is available here on SSRN and the abstract is below:
Outside of economics (and even within), Julian Simon is mostly remembered for his famous bet on resource prices against biologist Paul Ehrlich. The bet is frequently used to illustrate how some environmental scares are exaggerated. In the rare instances when more details are added, the emphasis is always on how the role of innovation in promoting socio-economic progress which, directly or indirectly, solves environmental problems. However, Simon had a rich and complex view of the role of institutions in modulating the pace of socio-economic progress (broadly defined) and the extent of environmental problems. In this paper, I highlight the unappreciated institutional conditions that Simon placed in his work. Institutions that foiled or distorted the market process had, in Simon’s view, the dual effect of reducing living standards and amplifying environmental problems. I show, using the case of climate change, that Simon’s forgotten nuances can help explain modern environmental problems such as climate change. Most notably, it allows a subtle shift from claiming that climate change is anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) to claiming that climate change is “statogenic” (i.e. government-made).