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Luck or Skill? An Examination of the Ehrlich - Simon Bet

Author

Listed:
  • Katherine A. Kiel

    () (Department of Economics, College of the Holy Cross)

  • Victor Matheson

    () (Department of Economics, College of the Holy Cross)

  • Kevin Golembiewski

    (Department of Economics, College of the Holy Cross)

Abstract

In 1980, Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon placed a famous bet on whether the prices of a bundle of natural resources would rise or fall over the ensuing decade. Simon won the bet as the real price of the bundle fell significantly, and the result of this bet has been taken as proof that technological progress is likely overcome any Neo-Malthusian concerns about natural resource scarcity. Contrary to the popular perception, however, an examination of the price history of the identical bundle of goods from 1900-2007 shows that Ehrlich and not Simon would have won a majority of the bets over the past century and would have done so by a wide margin.

Suggested Citation

  • Katherine A. Kiel & Victor Matheson & Kevin Golembiewski, 2009. "Luck or Skill? An Examination of the Ehrlich - Simon Bet," Working Papers 0908, College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hcx:wpaper:0908
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    File URL: http://web.holycross.edu/RePEc/hcx/HC0908-Kiel-Matheson-Golembiewski_EhrlichSimon.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. M. H. Khalil Timamy, 2005. "Debate," Review of African Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(104-105), pages 383-393, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lawn, Philip, 2010. "On the Ehrlich-Simon bet: Both were unskilled and Simon was lucky," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(11), pages 2045-2046, September.
    2. Stan Becker, 2013. "Has the World Really Survived the Population Bomb? (Commentary on “How the World Survived the Population Bomb: Lessons From 50 Years of Extraordinary Demographic History”)," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(6), pages 2173-2181, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Natural resources; scarcity; Neo-Malthusian;

    JEL classification:

    • Q30 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
    • Q31 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Demand and Supply; Prices

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