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Catastrophism, Malthus, and Optimism

We are incomparably better off than we were in the past, and only concerted human effort can wreck it. We are richer than Rockefeller. Things have improved hugely in our lifetimes, and in the lifetimes of our parents and grandparents. This point of view was well expressed in a recent interview of Warren Buffet, who spoke of the enormous increase of wealth in American society and around the world in the space of three generations. Rockefeller had no flat screen, and had to go to a football stadium to see a game, nor did he have any antibiotics that cured me only weeks ago. Calvin Coolidge’s son died of a staphylococcus infection that would have been cured by a tube of non-prescription ointment.

If you want to see how much better things have got for everyone, see a video by Hans Rosling. Our ideas of human population, health, income and family size in the world are in the main obsolete by about forty years.

And yet….

Beyond the froth of electoral politics, and at deeper levels, a movement has arisen that, since the 1970s, has proclaimed a revolution against this wealth. Its success has been spectacular. It dominates governments. It has the majority of population in its grip. Highly intelligent people believe it to be based in incontrovertible fact. Policies are devised at the most minute levels to adapt to its dictates: plastic spoons are banned, grocery bags are switched from paper to plastic and back again, on lines of reasoning adapted to this theory. More than this, energy production is curtailed, pipelines not built, even when they are proven to be safe and effective, and vast tracts of land are turned over to solar panels and wind turbines which have demonstrably less effectiveness in generating energy than machines that burn fuels.

This doctrine announced itself in the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth” paper in  1972. Earth’s carrying capacity is limited; we are overstepping natural limits; catastrophe lies ahead unless we do something; the population pressures we humans place on the planet need to be reduced – by reducing the number of people. You don’t have to dig to deep to find a deep pessimism in this doctrine.

The blurb for the Club of Rome’s book starts like this:

“Published 1972 – The message of this book still holds today: The earth’s interlocking resources – the global system of nature in which we all live – probably cannot support present rates of economic and population growth much beyond the year 2100, if that long, even with advanced technology.”


The ideology is a combination of warmed-over Thomas Malthus (overpopulation) with a belief in central planning of the world’s economy that would cheer the heart of Karl Marx. It dominates political assumptions. It is the principal form that leftism took when the Communist system collapsed in the Soviet Union.

We have never been so wealthy, and we have never been so pessimistic about our collective futures.

This is the central contradiction of our times. Most western governments are busy harming the economies of our countries with a view to preventing climate change.  Pessimism may wreck the rising tide of wealth creation, which has been fueled by technology, energy production, and civic culture.

More than anything else, I remain a believer that things will get even better, if we only give progress a chance. The pessimists – in the form of Malthusians, limits to growthists – are now in charge. It is their day. We have federal ministers in this country who are seriously bent on wrecking the economy of the one province in Canada that pays the pensions of the rapidly aging populations of Ontario and Quebec.

For a more eloquent exposition of the optimistic view, I again recommend the recent interview with Warren Buffet by Charlie Rose. Buffett expresses the hopeful view, which I think is well justified. I don’t buy into the dark views of ecological doomists.





Things I believe and do not believe

To be accurate, “belief” is distinguished from knowledge. What I know for sure does not  need to be believed, because in that case belief is superfluous. I see belief and knowledge to be incompatible states of mind. When the pen is dropped from the hand in normal gravity, I know it falls towards the centre of the earth. I might believe it as well but that belief is superfluous.


I believe:

  • There is spiritual wickedness in high places.
  • Recent global warming is real and not significant in the long record of climate change on earth, though we should keep an eye on it.
  • There exists an immaterial force for goodness that is called God and by many other names. It is benign and intelligent, and occasionally directs those open to his insights and revelations to better outcomes.
  • We have received revelations.
  • I do not have an accurate, comprehensive, and correct picture of all that is going on. No one else does either.
  • Tolerance is required because of the preceding point.
  • Measures to control COVID were a foretaste of future totalitarian social controls that will be needed for a meatless future where we shiver in the cold, cold designed by globalists to immiserate us. See first bullet.
  • Gain of function research associated with COVID was paid for by American sources.

I do not believe:

  • That the governments and ruling classes of this world give a damn for the fate of the average person.
  • I do not believe in the benign intentions of those forces associated with the World Economic Forum, the Davos crowd, or the global warming climate emergency.
  • That the government of Canada is in good hands. (The first three bullets here are the same thing said in different ways).
  • That all people are equal in many significant senses of the word equal. Inevitably this includes peoples as well as people.
  • That though evolution is true, that natural selection or sexual selection as Darwin has explained them are sufficient explanations. Good try though!
  • That materialism is a sufficient explanation. The world is far more and greater than matter and its motions.
  • COVID was not a natural event but was an engineered plague that was either deliberately or accidentally released from the Wuhan Institute for Virology.


Most of what I blog is a commentary on the above. And with that, I will call it a day.





Your daily dose of doom

HD wallpaper: skeleton chair ruin hdr, abandoned, obsolete, damaged, decline  | Wallpaper Flare

Sean Speer interviews Andrew Potter. Potter sets out his case:

“Here are the factors. One is what Tyler Cowen, the economist, calls the “great stagnation” to convey the three- or four-decade-long stagnation in technological development, innovation, and economic growth that has been going on since the 1970s.

Second, I think Benjamin Friedman, the economist, doesn’t get enough credit for connecting the dots between economic stagnation and its socio-political effects. He wrote a really interesting book about 15 years ago called The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, where he says, “Look, growth is great not just because it gives you stuff and raises your standards of living, but it also makes you better people.” That is, it makes you more open to immigration, more tolerant and open to diversity, less risk-averse, and generally less fearful about the future. In effect, it makes you more cosmopolitan and less Hobbesian about the world.

This points to the other key factor in what is going on, in addition to the “great stagnation”, which is almost a downstream effect, which is the rise of conservative populist politics. Right-wing populist politics is, in many ways, a consequence of economic stagnation, including in household incomes.

A third element is the rise of the internet and social media, which a lot of people thought was going to amplify productivity and democracy, but which has had the opposite effect. I used to be pretty optimistic and even cavalier about the effect of the internet on our civil discourse, but now I’m very, very pessimistic.

So, together with a stagnating economy, the rise of populist politics, and the toxic effects of social media, you get this toxic brew of lack of trust: lack of trust in institutions, a lack of trust in experts, and a lack of trust in one another.

Finally, there is another element in all of this, which J. Storrs Hall, an engineering sort of tech guy, reflected in his bookWhere Is My Flying Car?: A Memoir of Future Past, where he argues, “The great stagnation actually became the great strangulation.” That is, what’s standing in the way of growth is not the fact that we just plucked off the low hanging fruit and we can’t figure out new sources of economic growth, but it’s because we’ve buried our economy in a big mass of regulations and risk-averse bureaucracies. So even if we could resolve the political problems that have arisen in the last few years, there’s a more longstanding issue about whether we’re even capable anymore, as a society, of getting anything done.”


The Hub bears watching.