Paul Sabin on EconTalk

Paul Sabin, author of The Bet, was the guest of last week’s EconTalk podcast (transcript and audio).

I haven’t read the book as yet but the topic fascinates me; how people can be so divergent on issues, in this case, population and resource consumption and where this difference comes from. Here is my favourite Q&A from the podcast, with the most important take away at the end:

“How did Ehrlich and Simon’s values differ? They did differ. They weren’t just disagreeing about whether markets worked well or not.”

“Well, I think that one difference had to do with how they thought about people and their role on the planet. And I think that Ehrlich has tended to have a view of humans as one of many creatures on earth and we have a claim to the resources of the earth but not the only claim, maybe. And he has a value of how to live on the planet that was one of greater balance, a harmony, or humility on the part of humans; that we would take maybe a lesser claim, that there would be more space for other creatures to be living. I think Simon’s view was really about: people first. That the goal of society was to be able to support a larger number of people on the planet and that the measure of the success of society could be taken in the numbers of people who were able to live productive lives. And so he often would say that, for him, if he had to choose between the claims of nature, other creatures, and the claims of people, he would favor the claims of people. And so I think that’s a very interesting question that there’s not a right answer. These are ethical questions that are subject to debate and different values.”

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