“While we think that policies and institutions compatible with freedom and openness are important factors in promoting human progress, we let the evidence speak for itself. We hope that this website leads to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world and stimulates an intelligent debate on the drivers of human progress.”
– HumanProgress.org (Cato Institute)
Kudos to Cato for their new website portal, HumanProgress.org, which brings into one place the statistics of human welfare with reference to the socio-economic conditions responsible for it. The mission and status of this new website is discussed below.
A Julian Simon Institute?
I often lamented the absence of a Julian Simon Institute to tackle the area of ‘sustainability’ or “sustainable development,’ which covers so many things relating to population and progress. In late 1997 (right before Simon’s untimely death), I wrote him about such a possibility given his clear research agenda and his pioneering work. Simon responded by letter:
The work you have in mind for a Julian L. Simon Institute sounds wonderful. But I think there is a lot of good sense in the European Jewish tradition (though not in the North African Jewish tradition) not to name children after living parents. Besides, it would make me very uncomfortable–and absolutely impossible for me to even think of seeking funding for it.
What this country needs a long time earlier than a Julian L. Simon Institute is a David Hume Institute.
David Hume in Simon
David Hume had multiple attractions for Simon. Hume recognized the natural order of human action and enterprise, what Simon called “the nature of a spontaneously ordered system of voluntary cooperation”). 
On the flip side, Hume (like F. A. Hayek) warned against the unintended consequences of government intervention into complex social orders. “We should be extremely wary of altering evolved patters of behavior lest we make such tragic blunders with our ‘rational’ assessments of what our social interventions may bring about,” Simon wrote. 
Hume also was a courageous scholar. “My economic analyses rest on… some principles which are uncommon, and which may seen too refined and subtle for such vulgar subjects,” Hume wrote (quoted by Simon). “If false, let them be rejected. But no one ought to enter a prejudice against them, merely because they are out of the common road.” 
Simon also quoted Hume on the positive correlation of people and goodness: “Wherever there are most happiness and virtue, and the wisest institutions, there will also be most people.” 
Hume’s clear attribution of human wellbeing to economic and political freedom was a Simon theme too. “Hume’s analysis of this (and all other topics in political economy) made in the 1760s and 1770s, has proven right across the board,” Simon wrote. 
Cato’s New Project
The Cato Institute recently launched a new website, HumanProgress.org, a data clearinghouse on the statistical trends of all things relating to human welfare. Here is the website description from the web page:
HumanProgress.org is a project of the Cato Institute with major support from the John Templeton Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, and the Brinson Foundation. HumanProgress.org requires no registration or membership. All data, charts, maps, and calculation tables can be used free of charge, but require an acknowledgment. Evidence from academic institutions and international organizations shows dramatic improvements in human well-being. These improvements are especially striking in the developing world.
Unfortunately, there is often a wide gap between the reality and public perception, including that of many policymakers, scholars in unrelated fields, and intelligent lay persons. To make matters worse, the media emphasizes bad news, while ignoring many positive long-term trends. We hope to help in correcting misperceptions regarding the state of humanity through the presentation of empirical data that focuses on long-term developments. All of our wide-ranging data comes from third parties, including the World Bank, the OECD, the Eurostat, and the United Nations.
By putting together this comprehensive data in an accessible way, our goal is to provide a useful resource for scholars, journalists, students, and the general public. While we think that policies and institutions compatible with freedom and openness are important factors in promoting human progress, we let the evidence speak for itself. We hope that this website leads to a greater appreciation of the improving state of the world and stimulates an intelligent debate on the drivers of human progress.
The website is continuing to be loaded with content, according to project head Marion Tupy. Please visit the site–and recommend it to family and friends who might despair about the natural progress of the human condition. And do not forget that progress and prosperity are not innate but the result of what has been a very scarce condition, private property rights, voluntary exchange, and the rule of law. In the condition of such liberty from government, the ultimate resource of human ingenuity is not a fixed, depleting resource. The fruit from the human mind is expansive and limitless, with each advance of knowledge and innovation leading to a new range of possibilities hitherto unknown.
Appendix: Data Categories
 Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 525.
 Ibid., pp. 262–263.
 Ibid., p. 54.
 Ibid., p. 309.
 Ibid., pp. 373.