Hi everyone, we are Gale L. Pooley & Marian L. Tupy, coauthors of Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet

Ask us anything! We will be here on Wednesday, March 1. Use the comments below to add questions, and upvote any questions you'd like to see us answer.

Gale is an associate professor of business management at Brigham Young
University-Hawaii, a Senior Fellow with the Discovery Institute, and serves on the board of
HumanProgress.org. He is also a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. He has taught economics and statistics at Alfaisal University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Boise State University, and the College of Idaho. In 1986 he founded Analytix Group, a real estate valuation and consulting firm. The Analytix Group has performed over 5,000 appraisals in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. He has held professional designations from the Appraisal Institute, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, and the CCIM Institute. He has published articles in Forbes, National Review, HumanProgress, The American Spectator, FEE, the Utah Bar Journal, the Appraisal Journal, Quillette, and RealClearMarkets.

Marian is the editor of Human​Progress​.org, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, and coauthor of The Simon Abundance Index. He specializes in globalization and global well‐​being and politics and economics of Europe and Southern Africa. He coauthored Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting (2020), as well as being published in the Financial Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Newsweek, the U.K. Spectator, Foreign Policy, and various other outlets both in the United States and overseas. He has appeared on BBC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, and other channels.

Gale earned his BBA in Economics at Boise State University. He did graduate
work at Montana State University and completed his PhD at the University of Idaho.

Marian received his BA in international relations and classics from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his PhD in international relations from the University of St. Andrews in Great Britain.

Get your questions in!

4

9 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:55 PM
New Comment

Dear J,

Please email me at mtupy@cato.org. We welcome new contributors with open arms. 

Marian 

What EU regulations that aren't really justified in terms of providing safety are most responsible for holding back innovation?

Your work seems like a spiritual successor to Simon's Ultimate Resource, sounding some of the same themes for a new generation. What are the biggest or most interesting updates since Ultimate Resource was published? And/or what did you find in your research for the book that surprised you?

I think what surprised me the most was how expensive things used to be. Bicycles have become 22 times more abundant today compared to 1910. In 1955 Bill Haley and the Comets’ ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ sold 3 million singles at 65 cents each. Unskilled workers at the time were earning around 97 cents an hour. This would put the time price of a song at 40 minutes. Today a student can get access to 90 million songs for $5.99 a month. Unskilled workers are earning around $14.53 an hour, so the time price is around 25 minutes. In 1955 it was 40 minutes for one song versus 25 minutes for 10,800 today (assuming 4 minutes per song and continuous streaming).  

This abundance has occurred at the same time population is increasing. Once you start thinking is time instead of money, you will be astonished at the abundance we enjoy today relative to our parents and grandparents. 

I have heard it claimed that Julian Simon got a bit lucky in his bet with Paul Ehrlich, and that if a different basket of metals or other commodities had been chosen, he might have lost. Is that true? What do we make of that?

Julian Simon was lucky because human population has been lucky for the last 150 years. And taking a long perspective is what is necessary if you really want to discover the underlying trend versus short-run market fluctuations. (You can always find a 10-year period to show prices going up or down.) 

To understand what's happening, we looked that the time prices of the Simon-Ehrlich five metal basket bet (copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten) from 1900 to 2018. For blue-collar workers the average time price fell by 89.2 percent. This means that for the time required to earn the money to buy one unit in 1900, you would get 9.28 units in 2018. These non-renewable metals have become 828 percent abundant. (Page 190) 

During this same period, U.S. population increased by 330.3 percent. Every one percent increase in population corresponded to a 3.22 percent increase in personal resource abundance. Measured at the population level, these five metals became 3,884 percent more abundant. (Page 229) 

Take a look at any basic commodity and there is a good chance that over the last 40-50 years it has become much more abundant. The only exceptions seem to be those products that are influenced by government regulations and subsidies like health care and education. 

We are grateful that Julian Simon had the courage to enter into this bet. He could have lost big time. But he had done his research and had a theory to explain the evidence. More people make life much more abundant. Simon won $576.07, but humanity has enjoyed trillions in new value over the last 150 years created by people that have the freedom to innovate.

I have read in Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson that innovation can be modelled by a graph where create a vertex on the graph with edges on the used technologies that are combined. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,  Thomas Kuhn develops paradigms where they are built upon with normal science and new paradigms are created by disproving an assumption and building a new paradigm. The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christenson has a similar idea where revolutionary technologies start out as lower quality and build up over time while competitors invest in the best short term innovation (iterative technology).

What sort of mathematical /logical model do you use for modeling innovation? 

These are great books. All make important contributions to how we think about lifting one another out of poverty. 

Although we don't offer an explicit model for innovation, partly due to the fact that innovation always comes as a surprise and you can't model surprises (otherwise they wouldn't be surprises), we do suggest that abundance is a function of population and the freedom to innovate.  

Our work is informed by George Gilder. He offers three propositions: wealth is knowledge, growth is learning, and money is time. From these propositions we can derive a theorem: The growth in knowledge can be measured with time. Our analytical framework operationalizes this theorem.

Wealth is knowledge: As Thomas Sowell notes, “The cavemen had the same natural resources at their disposal as we have today, and the difference between their standard of living and ours is a difference between the knowledge they could bring to bear on those resources and the knowledge used today.” We convert atoms to resources when we add knowledge to them. Economics is not about atoms, economics is about the growth of knowledge–how it is discovered, created, and shared. Unlike material atoms that are divided when they’re shared, knowledge is multiplied when it is shared and grows exponentially when it is consumed.

Growth is Learning: Hayek recognized that knowledge is distributed in tiny bits spread across billions of people. Organizations seeking to create value coordinate the accumulation of this knowledge into products and services. These products and services must then be tested in free markets that are also creating new knowledge in the form of prices and valuations. We grow by discovering valuable new knowledge and then sharing it with others in organizations and markets.

Money is Time: We buy things with money, but we pay for them with time. This means there are two prices: money prices and time prices. A time price is simply the money price divided by hourly income. We express money prices in dollars and cents and time prices in hours and minutes. If you are earning $20 and hour and a pizza is $15, the time price would be 45 minutes. Innovation shows up in both lower prices and higher incomes. As long as incomes are increasing at a faster rate than money prices, the time price will be decreasing. If the time price of a pizza falls by 50 percent, you can now get two for the time it took to earn one yesterday. Your pizza abundance has increased by 100 percent. It is the change in time prices over time that indicates the growth in knowledge. Time prices are the true prices we pay and a much more objective way to measure our standards of living. Think in time, and the world will reveal superabundance and the potential value of all human beings contributing to innovation.