August 12, 2015

Timely Wisdom from Smith's 'Doomslayer'

SMITH BRAIN TRUST -- U.S. oil prices fell to a six-year low on Aug. 11, 2015, driven by China’s currency devaluation. The other major factor, cited by The Wall Street Journal, has been an unrelenting supply of crude. One person who would not be surprised by the production is the late Smith School economist Julian Simon, who rejected the dire warnings of a population bomb and peak oil in the 1970s. Simon listened to the doomsayers of his day and recognized a flaw in their forecasts. They viewed people merely as takers and destroyers, while Simon saw people as producers able to imagine and create. When Simon won a famous bet in 1990 that vindicated his position, Wired magazine dubbed him the “Doomslayer.” Here are 10 quotes that represent Simon’s philosophy, excerpted from his 30 books and 200 published articles:

1. “The ultimate resource is people — skilled, spirited and hopeful people who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit, and so, inevitably, for the benefit of us all.”

2. “Humans are, on net balance, builders rather than destroyers.”

3. “The world’s problem is not too many people, but lack of political and economic freedom.”

4. “Just about every important long-run measure of human material welfare shows improvement over the decades and centuries.”

5. “The increase in the world's population represents our victory against death.”

6. "Minds matter economically as much as, or more than, hands or mouths."

7. “The standard of living has risen along with the size of the world’s population since the beginning of recorded time. There is no convincing economic reason why these trends toward a better life should not continue indefinitely.”

8. "Because we can expect future generations to be richer than we are, no matter what we do about resources, asking us to refrain from using resources now so that future generations can have them later is like asking the poor to make gifts to the rich."

9. “All of us necessarily hold many casual opinions that are ludicrously wrong simply because life is far too short for us to think through even a small fraction of the topics that we come across.”

10. “I’m not an optimist. I’m a realist.”


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The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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