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Book News
Population: The Ultimate Resource

The Hindu, India's premiere newspaper has reviewed our book, Population: The Ultimate Resource, in its book review section dated November 14, 2000. The review may be found at the following URL.

Earlier the book was mentioned in brief in The Telegraph newspaper of Calcutta and the news magazine India Today.

The book was released by Prof. (Mrs.) Rita Simon on July 16, 2000, at a seminar organised to discuss Population, Environment and Development - Ideas of Julian L. Simon, at the India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110 003.

Book News

Population: The Ultimate Resource

Essays by
  • Julian L. Simon
  • Peter T. Bauer
  • Deepak Lal
  • Nicholas Eberstadt
  • Sauvik Chakraverti
  • Edited by Barun S. Mitra

    World Population Day should become a day for celebrations. In this newly released book, Population: The Ultimate Resource, an international panel of scholars argue that people are the most valuable resource, and the growing human population illustrate man's unprecedented victory over death in the 20th Century. Never before in history could the world population quadruple in the span of just one hundred years. A society that considers her people as the ultimate resource, and recognises the value of freedom will discover the key to unlimited resources, they conclude.

    This volume, published by Liberty Institute, New Delhi, is dedicated to the memory of late Julian L. Simon, the economist and demographer, who exposed the hollowness of the Malthusian claim that resources are limited. He pointed out that people are the ultimate resource. They make all the other resources possible. The other authors in this volume include two renowned development economist, Lord Peter Bauer and Deepak Lal. Two political economists whose essays appear alongside are Sauvik Chakraverti, and Nicholas Eberstadt. Each of the essays bring out a different aspect of the population issue.

    The book has four articles by Simon. The first is his speech at the Institute's Freedom Workshop in 1997. Here he outlines his basic ideas concerning population, environment and development, and shown why historically prices of virtually all natural resources have been falling despite increasing consumption from a growing population. He concludes that more people, in a free environment, produce greater wealth, enjoy a healthier environment and have access to abundant resources.

    In a second article Simon argues in favour of immigration. Given the periodic outburst of sentiments against immigrants from neighbouring countries, and migrants from countryside to the cities, Simon's reasons for keeping the borders open should be of interest to readers in India. He says, "Opponents of immigration seek to persuade us that new immigrants damage society economically, politically, and culturally. Immigration restrictions are intended to "protect us" in the same way as tariffs and trade quotas. But like trade barriers, immigration restrictions largely protect us from benefits."  He reminds us of the tragedy of the now defunct Berlin Wall where so many lost their lives trying to escape from tyranny at home. And in his characteristic fashion Simon says, "This should remind us how wonderful it is that people want to come here."

    Lord Peter Bauer, the dissident developmental economist, shows why a growing population is not an obstacle to economic development. He writes, “There is ample evidence that rapid population growth has certainly not inhibited economic progress either in the West or in the contemporary Third World. The population of the Western world has more than quadrupled since the middle of the eighteenth century. Real income per head is estimated to have increased fivefold at least. Much of the increase in incomes took place when population increased as fast as in most of the contemporary less developed world, or even faster.”

    Deepak Lal, another renowned development economist, finds that population growth has had no impact on India's economy, particularly agriculture, and that there were other factors. To those concerned about burgeoning population and its impact on food production, Lal says, “Apart from the few Green Revolution States, much of the agricultural growth in India has been induced by population growth.”

    Columnist Sauvik Chakraverti argues that population growth causes prosperity and urbanisation and free trade are suited to absorb the diverse potentials of the increasing numbers. “The proof that population causes prosperity can be condensed into four words: Urban Areas Are Rich,” concludes Sauvik. Two graphs show very good correlation between rates of urbanisation and economic wealth, in India as well as internationally. On the other hand, there is hardly any relationship between population density and economic wellbeing. Today, Japan and India have comparable population densities, but there is no comparison between the two economies.

    Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist, identifies the ideology that has been at the root of the belief that population needs a public policy to restrain it from proliferating. He cautions, "To make the economic case for an active population policy, population planners would ultimately need to centre their arguments on estimates of the economic value of human life. They would have to show, in effect, what would be the "present value" of a child born today, and also to show how that present value would be changed by altering the size of the baby's cohort of peers, or the cohorts following." Eberstadt also points out that demographic change may assume a variety of manifestations, its form in the modern era has typically been both comparatively benign and relatively advantageous for the purposes of economic growth.

    As we enter the new millennium, we must ask a fundamental question. Are our fellow human beings a resource and shape policies that protects his freedom and so that he may realise his potential, or should we look at our numbers and think of it as a drain on the limited resources?

    This book seeks to reopen the debate over population, and introduce the reader to a very different perspective. The people are the ultimate resource and not the problem. Rather than blaming the people, we need to look at our policies that have curbed the spirit of inquiry and enterprise, and led to the wastage of the most precious of all resources, the human mind. Our future and those of our children depend on it.

    The essays have been selected and edited by Barun S. Mitra. Additional demographic and developmental data have been included in the book to illustrate the arguments, and make international comparison meaningful. An appendix also briefly outlines the evolution of population policy in India. The book is available from Liberty Institute, at a price of Rs 180/- (195 pages).

    Articles on population

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