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February 11, 2008

Professer Maule goes all Malthus on us:

The impending shortages of critical goods and materials, including oil, clean water concrete, steel, natural gas, health care, copper, agricultural products, and similar life-essential ingredients, will only worsen the problem. An ever-increasing world population, seeking more and more quantities of these and other items, coupled with the emergence of a small creditor group and massive hordes of debtors, is a recipe for disaster. Somewhere along the way, these conditions will trigger armed conflict, pestilence and pandemics, civil disorder, and breakdowns in societal structures. No one ever promised that the Dark Ages were a one-time event.

Of course, people have been saying this sort of things for a long time - Thomas Malthus gave the name to this type of speculation in the 1830s. Yet since that time, we have a larger and wealthier worldwide population than ever. Still, we're told, disaster is always somewhere down the road.

But betting on catastrophe is famously a losing gamble. Being an optimist, my money is on two things: human ingenuity and the supply-demand curve:

Chart courtesy of Mike Moffat,

Of course, the government could still screw things up.

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