- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2013


President Obama thinks Africans are better off in shanties and mud huts instead of houses and apartments loaded with the conveniences of modern life. He as much as said so the other day in Johannesburg. So far nobody has called him a racist, as a Republican might be for saying such things.

“Here in Africa,” the president said, “if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over.”

A boiled planet certainly wouldn’t be a nice place to live. But by the president’s logic, such as it is, the people on the planet would be better off driving donkey carts instead of automobiles “unless we find new ways of producing energy.” The “new ways” obviously don’t include nuclear, the newest way of all. Mr. Obama’s power base on the left will only embrace inefficient, pre-industrial power sources. They’re obsessed at the moment with windmills out of a superstitious belief that byproducts of the Industrial Revolution have been warming the planet.

It’s such an article of faith that the world’s least fortunate are condemned to perpetual poverty, despite solid evidence that man is not harming the globe. Carbon-dioxide levels are rising, but global temperatures have fallen over the past 15 years, shattering the notion of a causal link between harmless carbon dioxide and catastrophe. A clear-eyed analyst would conclude that since increased wealth in Africa produces the modern comforts that the developed world enjoys, cultivating innovation, entrepreneurship, investment and prosperity increases prosperity for all.

Mr. Obama falls into the trap that famously ensnared Paul R. Ehrlich, author of “The Population Bomb,” a scare story from a midnight campfire that we’re all doomed by progress. Thirty years ago, Mr. Ehrlich made a wager with Julian L. Simon, then a business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champlain, that unless the government intervened to prevent overpopulation, widespread starvation, environmental destruction, shortages of food and water, and other calamities would soon follow.

Professor Simon believed a growing population was a good thing, that it would create wealth and develop technology, and make resources more available, not hunger and poverty, as the socialists of that time insisted. More people on the planet meant more entrepreneurs to develop more wealth, without the central planning beloved by big-government groupies. The two men agreed to base their wager on whether the prices of five commodities would rise or fall over the next decade. If the environmentalists were correct and rampant population growth created shortages, prices of the commodities would rise. Mr. Simon argued that the opposite would happen; more people meant more brains to think up new means of extracting resources and new means of distribution. This would lower the price of the commodities.

Between 1980 and 1990, the population of Earth grew by more than 800 million. During that decade, the price of each selected metal fell. Mr. Ehrlich conceded defeat and sent Mr. Simon a check for $576. Alas, one of the academics who gave Mr. Ehrlich pointers on how to frame his losing bet, John Holdren, became President Obama’s chief science adviser. If he really is worried about the planet “boiling over,” Mr. Obama should take a deep breath and sit down until the dizziness subsides. He could invite Mr. Holdren to lunch for a plate of boiled crow.

The Washington Times

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