Julian Simon Remembered (Would have been 80 today)
“[Julian] Simon found that humanity progressed not only by solving immediate problems within the existing institutional framework but also by creatively improving the framework over time. . . . In the short run, members of society adopt localized technical and contractual fixes. In the medium range, they may explore government regulatory policies. In the longer term, they expand the scope and scale of the liberal institutions. These institutions of economic freedom—private property, binding contracts, and the rule of law—improve incentive structures that foster both economic well-being and environmental stewardship.”
- Fred Smith, “Introduction,” in Robert Bradley, Julian Simon and the Triumph of Energy Sustainability (Washington, D.C.: ALEC, 2000), p. 12.
Julian Simon (1932–98) would have been eighty years old today. MasterResource is inspired by his contributions to energy (what he labeled “the master resource”), as well as his open-ended view of human ingenuity (what he called “the ultimate resource”).
Who can forget Simon’s statement: “It’s reasonable to expect the supply of energy to continue becoming more available and less scarce, forever.”  That one got the neo-Malthusians (fixity-depletionists) mad!
Or this: “Discoveries, like resources, may well be infinite: the more we discover, the more we are able to discover.”  The cascading effect of human discovery, indeed, the open-endedness of entrepreneurship (and in the mineral world, resourceship), is a very powerful explanatory concept.
The extent to which the political-social-economic system provides personal freedom from government coercion is a crucial element in the economics of resources and population…. The key elements of such a framework are economic liberty, respect for property, and fair and sensible rules of the market that are enforced equally for all. 
The headlines continue to confirm Simon’s worldview about mineral resources. The oil and gas shale boom in the U.S. and around the world have refuted ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak gas’ predictions and worries for the foreseeable future. And how about this: “Rare Earth Plant Ready, But in a Glut,” a business headline in the New York Times recently read.
In one of his last works, Hoodwinking the Nation, published the year after his death, Simon spelled out his worldview:
The message about human betterment and economic progress is more general than any individual statements about raw materials, air, water, life expectancy, education, and the like. There is solid theoretical basis for the idea that that all aspects of human welfare should get better, not just as a matter of coincidence but as part of a broad causal mechanism.
Humanity has necessarily evolved so that we have more of the nature of creators than of destroyers—or else the species would have died out long ago. People seek to improve their conditions, and therefore on balance people build more than they tear down and produce more than they consume. Hence each generation leaves the world a bit better in most respects than it begins with. 
May the legacy of Julian Simon continue–and may free markets continue to give life to Simon’s optimism.
Appendix: Other Julian Simon Posts at MasterResource
Remembering Julian Simon (1932–1998) (February 8, 2010)
 Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2, p. 82.