Statogenic Climate Change? Julian Simon and Institutions

14 Pages Posted: 13 May 2021 Last revised: 18 May 2021

See all articles by Vincent Geloso

Vincent Geloso

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 11, 2021

Abstract

Outside of economics (and even within), Julian Simon is mostly remembered for his famous bet on resource prices against biologist Paul Ehrlich. The bet is frequently used to illustrate how some environmental scares are exaggerated. In the rare instances when more details are added, the emphasis is always on how the role of innovation in promoting socio-economic progress which, directly or indirectly, solves environmental problems. However, Simon had a rich and complex view of the role of institutions in modulating the pace of socio-economic progress (broadly defined) and the extent of environmental problems. In this paper, I highlight the unappreciated institutional conditions that Simon placed in his work. Institutions that foiled or distorted the market process had, in Simon’s view, the dual effect of reducing living standards and amplifying environmental problems. I show, using the case of climate change, that Simon’s forgotten nuances can help explain modern environmental problems such as climate change. Most notably, it allows a subtle shift from claiming that climate change is anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) to claiming that climate change is “statogenic” (i.e. government-made).

Keywords: Julian Simon, Environmental Economics, Paul Ehrlich, Climate Change

JEL Classification: Q50, H10

Suggested Citation

Geloso, Vincent, Statogenic Climate Change? Julian Simon and Institutions (May 11, 2021). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 21-14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3843697 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3843697

Vincent Geloso (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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