Alex Trembath in Slate:
In 1980, Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich famously bet libertarian economist Julian Simon that the price index of several precious metals would increase over the ensuing 10 years. Ehrlich, author of the apocalyptic hit The Population Bomb, expected that resource scarcity would inevitably drive up prices. Simon took the bet, insisting that the free market and human ingenuity would find ways to produce more resources at lower costs. Simon won.
That wager, expertly recalled in Paul Sabin’s The Bet, is a microcosm of the left-right divide on the environment and economic growth that has existed for the past several decades. Ehrlich was on the left: an angry, pessimistic academic demanding government policy to halt the growth of population, technology, and consumption. Simon was on the right: a sunny, gregarious economist arguing the free market would forever solve humanity’s resource challenges and that government should get the hell out of the way. Lefties and righties across Western economies have played these roles consistently for a generation.
That divide no longer matters.