21st Century Science & Technology


Why There Really Are No Limits to Growth

by Ralf Schauerhammer

From Spring 2002 21st Century issue.

Bjorn Lomborg and Julian Simon

Julian Simon and Friedrich Hayek

Mandeville Vs. Leibniz

Simon Vs. LaRouche

Anti-Entropy Vs. Evolution

Julian Simon Vs. Julian Simon

Malthus Vs. Franklin

The Rule of the Cuckoo’s Egg

The Political Reality

The Milwaukee Iron Company works in 19th Century America.
In recent months, it has become noticeable that the political endurance of the green zero-growth ideology is disappearing. For example, the greens were not able—except sometimes in attenuated form—to push through internationally their measures against emissions of what they call the “climate poison,” carbon dioxide. Such developments have created a political environment in which more and more scientists have gotten up the nerve to come out openly against the untenable theory that the effect of human industry is to bring about a global climate catastrophe.

In Germany, which vaunts itself as an international model of ecological awareness, the Green Party is fighting to stay above 5 percent in the regional elections and the coming federal elections. Meanwhile, in Denmark, a true eco-El Dorado, the prime minister of the new government, the ultra-liberal Fogh Rasmussen, gave “eco-skeptic” Bjorn Lomborg the job of making an in-depth examination of state expenditures for green projects.

Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, and Associate Professor of Statistics at Aarhaus University in Denmark, authored a book last year, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which rips to pieces—one by one—the hair-raising, lying fairy tales of the environmentalist mafia.1 And this same “dissident” Lomborg will now preside over when and where the money spigot to the greens is going to be turned off. The pain threshold has been passed, and a wailing and gnashing of teeth are resounding throughout the media and the Internet, hoping for its green echo.

Since the paradigm shift towards a zero-growth society, brought about by the forces behind the Club of Rome—aided and abetted by more than 30 years of conscious lies and propaganda2—billions of dollars have been thrown away upon ideologically motivated projects. A correction of the worst excretions of this paradigm shift is long overdue. But what should be the conceptual basis for this overdue correction, for an enduring improvement of the human economy in the biosphere? That is the question.

First, let us ask ourselves, what made it so easy for the Club of Rome to pull off its desired paradigm shift? The trick they pulled in their notorious report, The Limits to Growth, was so transparent, that nobody should have fallen for it. The trick consisted of using the word “growth,” for something which is, in reality, only “multiplication.” It reminds one of the classic example of the lily pond, where the plant population doubles each week. After only one week it is completely full, and—Help! But that is not growth, it is no more than multiplication, which naturally finds its “limits” in the pond’s surface area.

True growth includes a quality that transcends mere multiplication. The clearest example is the growth of a human being in the first year after the fertilization of the egg, from which he or she grows. In this process, it is not so much a question of multiplication of cells, but rather permanent differentiation, reorganization, and the development of new organs, which are the substance of true growth. The quality of change of the growth process becomes particularly obvious with the singular event known as birth. Yet, in principle, the same qualitative transformation is true for any growth process that is capable of maintaining itself over any length of time. Naturally, that is especially the case for economic processes.

Why did almost all politicians, economists, and scientists fall for this simple trick? The reason lies in a deeply rooted flaw in the thinking process of the dominant free market economic doctrine, which makes its acolytes blind to the trick. Anyone who thinks that value is created by the parasitical buy-low-and-sell-high principle, does not understand true growth at all.

Likewise, anyone who seeks to measure economic growth, as an accountant might, in fixed scalar units, such as tons of production, quantities of money, prices, amounts of energy, and so on, fails to see—just as does the Club of Rome—the decisive factor for judging the long-term, self-subsisting growth process of the economy, namely, the development of the creative power of labor. The essential dynamic of this qualitative development cannot by its very nature be captured by purely statistical methods, nor by so-called “nonlinear” mathematical models. It is this “dogmatic” problem which we will examine more closely here.

nvironmentalist Prof. Bjorn Lomborg
(Bjorn Lomborg official web page)

Bjorn Lomborg and Julian Simon
In arguing as a “skeptical environmentalist,” Bjorn Lomborg avoids everything which is not directly related to statistics. Statistics is his professional field, and here he feels himself relatively secure against the flood of attacks from green quarters. This position is understandable enough, but hardly adequate for making a fundamental change for the better. It is clear—and Lomborg discusses this—that his thinking is strongly influenced by the American economist, Julian Simon.

Julian L. Simon, who died in 1998, asserted—contrary to today’s ruling paradigm—that the resources of mankind are not finite, and that, in particular, the “master resource,” energy, is adequately available. “At worst, the cost ceiling provided by nuclear power guarantees that the cost of electrical power cannot rise far above present energy costs, political obstacles aside,” he writes.3

Yet, at the same time, Simon was a representative of the free market economic theory of von Hayek—precisely that theory, which was unable to effectively oppose the Club of Rome’s notorious trick. Thus, an examination of Simon’s theses promises an interesting insight, into whether or not the new opposition to zero-growth ideology can overcome its blind spot.

Economist Julian Simon.

Julian Simon and Friedrich Hayek
On April 13, 1992, Simon’s obituary of Friedrich Hayek, who had died on March 23 of that year, appeared under the title, “The Path of Hayek, Scientist of Freedom, Has Come to an End.” Simon wrote:

“Hayek’s great work all flows from the fundamental vision of classical economics and political science, which Hayek terms ‘spontaneous order.’ This evolutionary principle (originally enunciated in 1705 by Bernard de Mandeville) ascribes the development of society and economy to what Adam Ferguson—colleague of David Hume and Adam Smith—called the ‘invisible hand.’ Hayek flexibly and pragmatically adapted this principle to various conditions of modern everyday life.…”

The admiration was mutual, as attested in two letters of von Hayek, which Simon included in the appendix to his book, The Ultimate Resource. In the first letter, dated March 22, 1981, von Hayek writes:

“Dear Professor Simon,

“I have never before written a fan letter to a professional colleague, but to discover that you have in your Economics of Population Growth provided the empirical evidence for what with me is the result of a life-time of theoretical speculation, is too exciting an experience not to share it with you. The upshot of my theoretical work has been the conclusion that those traditional rules of conduct (esp. of several property [property held in severalty—exclusively, not jointly]) which led to the greatest increases of the numbers of the groups practicing them leads to their displacing the others—not on ‘Darwinian’ principles, but because based on the transmission of learned rules—a concept of evolution which is much older than Darwin.”

Isn’t it touching to see the two men fall joyfully into each other’s arms, to celebrate their agreement about the most essential point of economic science? Too bad they both are dead wrong! With “spontaneous order,” “invisible hands,” and long-wave statigtics, the secret of true growth in the economy of humankind in the ecosphere can never be discovered.

Frederich von Hayek.
(Harper and Row)

Thomas Hobbes.

Mandeville Vs. Leibniz
In 1705, Mandeville published a cynical satire, called The Grumbling Hive—republished in 1714 as The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vice, Public Virtue—which Simon emphasizes in his obituary as the “source” of Hayek’s and his own most essential concept. This satire became a bestseller and was reprinted five times during Mandeville’s lifetime.

Mandeville maintained that Thomas Hobbes’s war of all against all, is that which forces man—a “creature of instinct”—into a social order, and this yields Mandeville’s essential thesis: that what we call evil in the world, both the moral and the natural, is the great principle which makes us into social beings, the solid basis for life, and the basis for all the industry and occupations of man, without exception; here it is that we have to search for all art and science. As soon as evil should cease to exist, society would have to decay, if not go under completely.4

Thus, the “moral” thrust of The Fable of the Bees, according to Mandeville, is that “There must be pride, luxury, and deceit for a people to flourish.”

Happy the one who has not yet come into contact with the history of free market economic dogma, and would now naturally ask such “naive” questions as: How is it possible that only evil, pride, luxury, and deceit can do something good for society, and, in the second place, how can improvement of society take place by evolution based on “spontaneous ordering”?

Both questions are justified, and easy to answer: both are ideologically based postulates, far removed from actual relations among human beings. There is absolutely no basis for free market economic theory’s “optimistic” dogma that “maximal personal gain produces maximum social gain.”

It is obvious that, contrary to this dogma, human societies do not arise spontaneously, behind the back of human intellect, so to speak, once people are allowed to indulge their sensual drives, perhaps as the autocatalytic formation of structures occurs in chemical reaction systems, or as in computers which form the images of structures for chaos theoreticians. The improvement of social organization is always conceived of by human beings, and fought for. And often, Friedrich Schiller reminds us, it must be paid for with the “blood of the best and the most noble.”

True human freedom is moral action. Moral action does not consist of following a set of virtuous, socially determined rules. The creative man acts morally when he is acting in accordance with his free will. Quite the opposite of the free-marketeer’s concept of freedom (which degrades man to a servant of his whims and wishes, and thus must ascribe the existence of society to “invisible” gods, and the development of society to “spontaneous”—that is, “unknowable”—organizational processes), the free moral activity of man brings a joy and a happiness, next to which the most liberal indulgence of the senses pales in comparison.

The individual who is moral in this sense, becomes a free citizen of a universe that remains completely closed to Hobbesian thinking and feeling, and becomes a fellow citizen of the “best of all possible worlds.” Leibniz did not call it this because everything in the world was as good as it could be,5 but because man has the freedom to comprehend the world and willfully improve it—that is, as a creature in the image of God, to take part in creation. Schiller expressed this Leibnizian thought, saying, “To be like God is the destiny of man”6

Based on this fundamental standpoint, Leibniz developed the foundations of scientific economics, which explains the creation of value by the increase of labor power and technology—and that without any invisible or spontaneous hands and things.

This economic science was carried over to the United States, the “New World,” by Benjamin Franklin, and further developed there. Well into the 19th Century, this was still known as the “American System,” the diametric opposite of the British System, predecessor to what is today euphemistically called “globalization.” In the 20th Century, British free trade dogma dominated ever more strongly, and today the only economist who draws explicitly upon the Leibnizian tradition of the American System, is Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

Simon Vs. LaRouche
I now present some excerpts from Julian Simon’s “Grand Theory” and go into more detail on the concepts of Lyndon LaRouche. The intention here is not merely to fault the Lomborg and Simon books. Their statistical material is helpful, and should be used to beat the ecomafia over the head, boxing their ears with it until they should no longer dare to spread their shameless lies.

Yet, for us to succeed in turning around the decades-long march down the road to an environmentalist dictatorship, and to solve the current economic problems, will depend entirely upon the degree to which we might rediscover, along with LaRouche, the Leibnizian concepts, apply them, and develop them further.

In Chapter 4 of his book, Simon explains his “Grand Theory” as follows:

“After I investigated case after case of phenomena which the doomsters said were getting worse because of increasing scarcity and population growth, and found instead that they were getting better… I began to wonder whether there is a deep connection, a üeneral theory that embraces all these phenomena. And I believe there is.… In short, humankind has evolved into creators and problem-solvers. Our constructive behavior has counted for more than our using-up and destructive behavior, as seen in our increasing length of life and richness of consumption. This view of the average human as builder conflicts with the view of the average human as destroyer which underlies the thought of many doomsdayers.”

So far, we could not be in greater agreement. The problem with Simon’s “Grand Theory” makes its first appearance when he explains how and why humankind is generally capable of creative activity. He writes:

“The sort of analysis suggested by Friedrich Hayek, offers an explanation of the observed long-term trend. Hayek (following upon Hume) urges upon us that humankind has evolved sets of rules and patterns of living which are consistent with survival and growth rather than with decline and extinction, an aspect of the evolutionary selection for survival and growth rather than with decline and extinction, an aspect of the evolutionary selection for survival among past societies.…

“What are the key patterns that maintained us and increased our numbers? Certainly the evolved cultural patterns include voluntary exchange between individuals, and the market that humankind has evolved to provide resources in increasing quantities; institutions, such as schools that pass on knowledge; libraries and legends and storytellers that store knowledge; and monasteries and laboratories and R&D departments that produce knowledge.…

“But ignorance of these cultural and biological patterns is not devastating for us, and such ignorance ought not to be surprising, given the complexity of these patterns and the difficulty of any one person seeing much of any pattern. Belief that our evolved history is, as I suggest, toward being creators rather than destroyers may be strengthened by some evidence that such evolution spontaneously occurs independently within most human groups, as a result of the conditions of natural life that humankind faces.”

Is this not remarkable? Simon emphasizes the development of mankind through and for creativity, but when he has to explain what this means, and in which way it is done, he insists on putting man’s conscious creativity in parentheses, and relegating it to a “spontaneous” evolutionary process, which the “individual” does not need to be able to recognize, nor is able to recognize, because of its “complexity.”

Such contradiction is absolutely not there in the work of LaRouche. For him, the case is just as simple as it, in fact, is. To the degree that the individuals in society, embody and bring into action their typically human creative capability, and consciously transform their technology and culture, their relative population density increases—a prerequisite for the long-term survival of society. LaRouche states this as follows:

“… Reduced to essentials of principle, all validatable discoveries of universal physical principle, occur in the same general form. (1) The use of experimental methods to generate an ontological paradox in an existing equivalent, or analog of a mathematical physics; (2) The generation of a solution, in the form of a newly discovered, or rediscovered technology, or universal principle, from within the sovereign cognitive capabilities of an individual mind; (3) The replication of the original experiment and act of discovery within the sovereign cognitive powers of another individual. (4) The sharing of this experience, in a sufficiently broad way, within a society, to permit the discovered principle to become a subject of the cooperative practice needed to bring the use of the principle to fruition. That, in the simplest possible way, is what should be understood as the act of discovery and social integration of a validatable universal physical principle.

“This method is the foundation for the Classical humanist mode in education, including one’s own self-education. In the process of developing mankind’s increasing mastery of the universe, there is a certain ordering in the determination of which discovery must tend to occur first, and as second which is likely to occur only in the changed environment brought into existence by the prior discovery. Since the increase of mankind’s potential relative population-density, as measured per-capita, per square kilometer, and in terms of demographic characteristics of populations, is the result of man’s increasing mastery of the universe through the application of valid discoveries of principle, the following must be said of the notion of time.”7

This difference between Simon and LaRouche in the creative role of the sovereign individual, is not something minor. It is of decisive political significance, for from LaRouche’s standpoint, what follows is that the individual must orient himself to take that political action which will lead to the betterment of society through individual action.

Simon’s “spontaneous” mechanism, which acts largely behind the backs of those involved, negates precisely individual responsibility, and, true to the doctrine of Mandeville, from the evil individual comes—wonderfully—economic progress. Politically, LaRouche’s appraisal is the foundation for a necessarily representative republican society, while Simon’s is very well accepted in an aristocratic system, or a plutocracy in democratic disguise, such as the United States of recent years.

Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. (Stuart Lewis/EIRNS)

Anti-Entropy Vs. Evolution
Simon makes his “Grand Theory” more profound through considerations taken from physics, entering into the problem of “entropy and limits.” It is useful for us to also follow him onto this terrain, since it is to be suspected that here too, we will find again, in a different form, the same problem that we just discussed above. Simon declares:

“The Second Law of Thermodynamics asserts that in a closed system (please note those crucial two words) the random disorder of energy-charged particles must increase over time. The faster that the particles move … the faster the movement away from order toward disorder.… The doomsdayers extrapolate from this simple idea the belief that the more fuel that humans use in current decades, the sooner our species must come to an end or lack of energy to maintain a patterned existence.… This vision is set forth well by the noted mathematician Norbert Wiener, who at last viewed the grim future with an attitude of Whitmanesque nobility rather than panic.…”

And this is how Simon proposes to solve the problem:

“But whereas the Second Law implies decreasing order, from the point of view of human beings all our observations record a long-term increase rather than decrease in disorder, no matter what quantities we look at. The increase in complexity of living things throughout geological time, and of human society throughout history, are the most important examples, of course. Biologically—as is suggested by the word ‘evolution’—the Earth has changed from a smaller number of species of simple creatures toward a larger number of complex and ordered creatures. Geologically, the activities of human beings have resulted in a greater heaping up of particular materials in concentrated piles, e.g., the gold in Fort Knox and in gold jewelry compared to the gold in streams, or the steel in buildings and junk piles compared to the iron and other ores in the ground.… All this suggests more rather than less order in the human environment with the passage of time, and hence contradicts theories of increasing entropy.… The concept of entropy simply doesn’t matter for human well-being. Our earthly island of order can grow indefinitely within the universal sea of chaos. Life could even spread from Earth to other planets, other galaxies, etc. incorporating an increasing portion of the universe’s matter and energy. What happens at the end of time is anybody’s guess: the universe may or may not be bounded. Who cares?”

Just at the decisive moment, Simon throws in the towel, although he is completely right when he reproves the doomsdayers, saying that they are extending, in an illegitimate manner, the validity of the law of entropy. Also, his pointing to anti-entropic evolution in living nature and human society is right on the mark.

But where is the connection? Simon’s “Who cares?” is not going to convince any doomsdayer. They will just agree! But this real paradox cannot be pushed off to the “end of time.” It is active at each moment, because one must proceed from the standpoint that the universe is intelligible in a coherent manner. Each person strives for such coherent explanation; we can all lay claim to it; without it, there is no science.

Simon fails to reach a level where he might have fruitful discussion with the doomsdayers. The more he urges that development is evolutionary, when actually it must be grasped from the human principle of anti-entropy, the more his opponents will stiffen themselves in the universal validity of the law of entropy, down into the microscopic domain. And who could blame them?

The service performed by Lyndon LaRouche is to have rediscovered the school of mathematical physics that runs from Leibniz, through the Göttingen school of Abraham Kästner, through Carl Friedrich Gauss, Bernard Riemann, and Georg Cantor, providing thus the spiritual weapons with which these universally operative principles can be explained.

LaRouche’s work is coherent with the fact that he did not nonchalantly dismiss Norbert Wiener’s entropic nonsense, as Simon did, but passionately addressed and solved the problem decades ago. Because this cannot be explained in a few words, I refer you to LaRouche’s relevant writings,8 and sketch here only the most general form of the solution.

In the universe, three fundamentally different principles are manifest: first, dead matter, such as for example, described by the law of entropy; second, living matter, which is characterized by anti-entropy; and third, the principle of reason, which is manifested by man’s activity. All three universal principles work in the same universe, but not in the same way. This unequal and combined operation cannot be understood within the framework of causal reciprocal action in Euclidean space, but demands the concept of the multiply connected Riemannian manifold.

Perhaps the following simile can provide an idea of this. Imagine a phase space, in which the principle of dead matter works as a kind of funnel, in which a ball bearing runs an elliptical path. The living principle is active in this process, not by working upon the ball directly, but rather, with a very weak force, deforming the boundary conditions of the funnel. By this means, in spite of its weakness, the living principle can bring about qualitative changes, for example, in that it changes the funnel enough, that the “non-living” ellipse suddenly becomes a parabola or a hyperbola.

This double process, which again should be thought of as a single process, in turn has working upon it in a similar manner, the principle of human reason, creating a higher quality of singularities.

The most essential point here is that LaRouche can describe a coherent anti-entropic process that can give a coherent explanation of entropy, not-entropy (called evolution by Simon), and the effective power of human reason in the universe.

It will not have escaped the observant reader, why LaRouche’s solution has remained hidden to Simon. The Mandeville-Hayek dogma of “spontaneous” self-organization denies human reason as an actively working force in the universe. Admittedly, it can describe the effects of reason after the fact, but only through a deus ex machina, and not in the coherent universal connectedness in which this universal principle manifests itself.

The steepest part of the road is now behind us; the two points still to follow, lead us by an easier path to the goal, but are no less important, because they lead us to the question of why all of this is of such great political significance.

Julian Simon Vs. Julian Simon
When someone like Simon treats a fundamental question with such flimsy arguments, it will take revenge on him in the most unexpected places. One of these, which is of great import for Simon’s argument against the doomsdayers, is to be found in his Chapter 26, with the interesting title, “The Effect of Population upon Technology and Productivity.”

Simon begins quite correctly:

“The most important economic effect of population size and growth is the contribution of additional people to our stock of useful knowledge. And this contribution is great enough in the long run to overcome all the costs of population growth. This is a strong statement, but the evidence for it seems very strong. Many who depreciate the potential contribution of knowledge of additional people, and who would halt population growth, also make little allowance for mind-boggling discoveries yet to be made. They assume that what we now believe is impossible, will always be so.…”

So far so good. But shortly thereafter, Simon writes:

“This does not imply that a higher standard of living requires additional discoveries.… We now have on our hands the knowledge to provide energy at constant or declining costs forever, and the knowledge to produce food in almost inexhaustible quantities. All other natural resources become less important and a smaller part of the economy with every passing decade. But additional discoveries can certainly be welcome, if only because of the excitement of scientific adventure.”

Here Simon contradicts himself, and just precisely at the core of his own “Grand Theory.” Again and again he has said, and rightly so, that the “cause of new discoveries, or the cause of applying ideas that were discovered earlier, is the ‘shortage’ of resources.”9 And now he explains that this process has ended. We have reached the point that man is “invented out.” From now on, we can engage in science for entertainment, but it is no longer really necessary for our existence. And that, in spite of the fact that it is invention that lays the basis for the existence and growth of mankind?

With this capital contradiction comes the revenge of Simon’s cavalier “Who cares?” regarding the entropic principle in the abiotic world, and his concomitant refusal to understand the effective power of human reason in the universe. It is quite clear that the doomsdayers, even if they might only confusedly perceive what is really at stake here, will use the leverage they get from this contradiction, in order to destroy Simon’s argument from within.

Rev. Thomas Malthus (1766-1834).

Malthus Vs. Franklin
I must address another capital fault in Julian Simon’s book, an error that I can only explain to myself on the basis that Simon must have had strong prejudices against the intellectual tradition of the American System of economics, and in consequence, against LaRouche, whom he never mentions.

In Chapter 24, Simon correctly attacks the lily-pond example mentioned at the beginning, but then he writes the following nonsense about Benjamin Franklin:

“It is interesting that a similar analogy was suggested by Benjamin Franklin two centuries ago. In Malthus’s words, ‘It is observed by Dr. Franklin, that there is no bound to the prolific nature of plants or animals, but what is made by their crowding and interfering with each others’ means of subsistence.…’ This is incontrovertibly true.… In plants and animals the view of the subject is simple. They are all impelled by a powerful instinct to increase of their species and this instinct is interrupted by no reasoning or doubts about providing for their offspring… the superabundant effects are repressed afterwards by want of room and nourishment… and among animals, by their becoming the prey of each other.

“Perhaps the most nightmarish of the biological analogies came from Alan Gregg, the former director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Medical Division: ‘There is an alarming parallel between the growth of a cancer in the body of an organism and the growth of human population in the earth’s ecological economy.…’

“But we must recognize what Malthus eventually came to recognize. After he published the short simplistic theory in the first edition of his Essay on Population, he took the time to consider the facts as well as the theory. He then concluded that human beings are very different from flies and rats.”

This passage contains a howling lie and a malevolent denigration of Benjamin Franklin, which could not but be deliberate on Simon’s part. Simon asserts not that Malthus, but Franklin, equates human population growth with that of the animals. For “proof” he cites not Franklin, but a quote from Malthus about Franklin.

Reading Franklin’s text of 1751 directly, leads to quite other conclusions. But even a close reading of the text cited by Malthus, shows that Franklin absolutely did not equate the multiplication of animals and man. This equivalence alleged by Simon, is not to be found in the words of Franklin, but rather in a modern passage from Gregg, which Simon places directly after the Malthus-Franklin quote, in order to give the impression that this was also Franklin’s opinion. Such a juxtaposition of quotes is counterfeiting of the worst sort.

The level of fraud carried out by Simon becomes still clearer if one reads the cited writing of Franklin in its historical context, and then compares it with how and why Malthus saw himself obliged, at the end of the 18th Century, to publish in great haste, a simplistic essay on zero growth.

When Franklin wrote his Observations in 1751, which are quoted a half century later by Malthus, he was not thinking of revolution and separation from England, but he offers practical advice to both England and the American colonies, on how to improve and expand the economies of both.10 He foresaw a strong growth in the population of the American colonies, because there land is so cheap and would remain so, so that each working man could get cheap land in order to nourish his family and the family of his children.

Franklin said that labor power would be expensive in America compared to Britain, because in America everyone could easily be on his own, and would rather produce independently than work for low wages. Moreover, he said, slave labor in America could not pay off within such a framework.

Finally, Franklin underscores the diametric opposite of the Malthusian premise, in his assertion that a great increase in offspring is not always based upon natural fertility, but upon education in diligence, through which the children are put into the situation of having a better income.

Franklin thus recognizes the significance of the development of labor power for population growth. Malthus, on the other hand, writes the exact opposite, in his Essay on Population. A few pages after the Franklin quote brought up by Simon, Malthus writes, “The human race will be constantly endeavoring to increase beyond the means of subsistence.”

Let us not forget that Malthus penned his Essay only after England had driven the American colonies into the War of Independence, and had lost the war. In this situation, British colonial power did not think Franklin’s message—that America would soon have a growing, well-off population—was all that joyful; this was a dangerous threat to the British Empire at the time, all the more because it had to increase the looting of its own population.

The first purpose of Malthus’s Essay, therefore, is to polemicize against the free development of the Americas,11 and the second, to propagandize for the repeal of the Poor Laws in England,12 which argument he bases on a mathematical trick, that “the Poor Laws… themselves create the poor which they are maintaining.”

The Rule of the Cuckoo's Egg

Even if one were to accept, that Julian Simon is ignorant of these historical matters, the question remains, why did he decide to make Franklin into a predecessor of Malthus? It is generally known, that Malthus borrowed his Law of Overpopulation, and it is also as clear as daylight, that Malthus lifted the geometric series of population growth from Giammaria Ortes.13

Why is Simon so insistent upon confusing the roles of Benjamin Franklin and Malthus? Why does he wish to attribute to the representative of the American System, the rival principles of the British System?

The quintessence of Simon’s “theoretical works” provides an answer. For here we have the assertion:

“… that those traditional rules of conduct (esp. of several property) which led to the greatest increases of the numbers of the groups practicing them leads to their displacing the others—not on ‘Darwinian’ principles but because based on the transmission of learned rules—a concept of evolution which is much older than Darwin.”

If we locate this standpoint within its historic reality, we see the following: On one hand, there is the tradition of the system of physical economy from Leibniz through Franklin into the American System, then through Friedrich List, Witte, and so on, up through LaRouche. On the other hand, there is the system based on greed and parasitism, of Mandeville through Malthus, through the British system of free trade, up through today’s globalization, to Hayek and Simon.

History emphasizes again and again, that it is the system of physical economy that creates wealth, by a constant upgrading of labor power, while the free trade system, can only hope to cheaply acquire the wealth created by physical economy. One of the essential rules for the free trade system to survive, is to lay its cuckoo’s egg in the nest of physical economy. Thus, when Simon tries to pawn off the Malthusian egg on Benjamin Franklin, he is only conforming to the absolutely essential “practical rules” of the free trade system.

The Political Reality
Anyone who attempts to use facts from books by Bjorn Lomborg and Julian Simon in the debate with the zero growth ideology, had better be very careful that he is not putting a cuckoo’s egg in his own nest. In the present condition of the world economy there is no basis for indulging in the “optimistic” illusion of the free market system of thought that the “invisible hand” will arrange everything for the best.

Today it is anything but doomsday thinking to reject the cheerful prediction of the free market dogma of “always more and always better,” no matter how extensive the statistical series that are supposed to prove it. These long statistical series are no more capable of capturing the actual substance or quality of growth than the systems of equations of the computer models that supposedly prove the “limits to growth.”

The human population has indeed grown dramatically over the millennia. But this generality must not cause us to forget that many civilizations have collapsed hideously. That there has been overall growth in spite of this, explains nothing of significance. When the development of human civilization is considered with more exactitude, it becomes frighteningly clear that whether the way out of a dark age were to be found, often depended on a mere handful of people.

The achievements of such geniuses are invisible in the long-range statistics, or are attributed to “spontaneous” events. When they fail, however, the statistics suddenly show a dramatic shift. That holds good most especially for our world, in which there is de facto but a single world culture: One cannot now rely, for example, on Arab culture to rescue the substantial corpus of the Greek classical period for the European Renaissance.

That these are no mere abstract considerations, is shown by the writing on the wall in the most recent United Nations population report,14 in which, after many years of warning of a “population explosion,” for the first time there is mention of an imminent “reduction of world population.” Several experts even expect an “avalanche-like” collapse of population, which must be taken with utmost seriousness.

It is also necessary to attend to the paradox that popular resistance to the decades-long push of the doomsdayers and zero-growthers is clearly growing, because the economic situation is getting markedly worse. The zero-growth ideology was a phenomenon of prosperity in the industrialized sector, which it was possible to graft onto the poorer countries of this world only forcibly, and with only modest success.

It would be an even greater paradox to expect the “spontaneous” resolution of problems by the “invisible hands” of the free market forces at this precise point in time, in which this globalized free trade system is collapsing. Anyone who does not recognize what it means for President George W. Bush, who took office as a radical free marketeer, to impose protective tariffs to rescue the last remnants of the American steel industry, does not understand what hour the clock has struck. Such a one can take it as guaranteed that his “optimism,” based as it is on free market dogma, will soon completely abandon him.

We are entitled to a true optimism for the future by virtue of the certainty that we live in a world which is, in Leibniz’s expression, “the best of all possible worlds,” in which obviously all is not as it should be, but a world which men and women can continually improve. The scientific basis for this is available to us in the foundations of physical economy.

When we grasp this today, apply it, and make it fruitful in the solution of the world’s problems, then we actually will make a better world, with more people, and better nourished and better educated people. We will colonize planets and someday even new galaxies. We will not only do it, we will also know why we are doing it, and we will achieve an ever better understanding of how to drive forward this process of growth in the universe.

Real growth has, in fact, no limits.
Ralf Schauerhammer is an editor of the German-language science magazine Fusion, a computer specialist, and an organizer with the LaRouche political movement in Germany. He is the co-author of The Holes in the Ozone Scare: The Scientific Evidence That the Sky Isn’t Falling, published by 21st Century. This article was translated from German by Rick Sanders and David Cherry.


1. Bjorn Lomborg, Ehe Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

2. In the Global 2000 report, drafted under the Carter administration, this was admitted, not without pride.

3. See Chapter 11 in The Ultimate Resource.

4. This summary comes from Karl Marx, from his amusing “Digression on Productive Labor.”

5. It took the diseased brain of a Voltaire (1694-1778) to concoct the satire, Candide, for spreading this kind of lie about Leibniz.

6. In Schiller’s dissertation, he explains that “in the image and likeness of God,” is not to be understood as a condition, but rather as the process of self-perfection. Schiller’s purpose in this work is to demonstrate that in reality, all of man’s sensual appetites are ultimately derived from this drive for self-perfection.

7. Lyndon LaRouche, “A Lawless U.S.A. Today: Faith, Hope, and Agape!” Executive Intelligence Review, May 13, 2001.

8. A more exact treatment can be found, for example, in the article by LaRouche cited in note 7.

9. In Chapter 3.

10. “Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring man ... can in short Time save Money enough to purchase a Piece of new Land for Plantation, whereon he may subside a Family, such are not afraid to marry; for, if they even look far enough forward to consider how their Children, when grown up, are to be provided for, they see that more Land is to be had at rates equally easy.… Labour will never be cheap here, where no Man continues long a Labourer for others, but get a Plantation of his own.… The Labour of Slaves can never be so cheap here as the Labour of working Men in Britain.… The great Increase of Offspring… is not always owing to greater Fecundity of Nature, but… industrious Education; by which the Children are enabled to provide better for themselves.”

11. This theme runs like a thread throughout the whole Essay of Malthus. In Chapter 14, for example, he writes: “Were I to live a thousand years, and the laws of nature to remain the same, I should little fear, or rather little hope, a contradiction from experience in asserting that no possible sacrifices or exertions of the rich, in a country which had been long inhabited, could for any time place the lower classes of the community in a situation equal, with regard to circumstances, to the situation of the common people about thirty years ago in the northern States of America.”

Or in Chapter 17, the following: “A person who contemplated the happy state of the lower classes of people in America twenty years ago would naturally wish to retain them for ever in that state, and might think, perhaps, that by preventing the introduction of manufactures and luxury he might effect his purpose, but he might as reasonably expect to prevent a wife or mistress from growing old by never exposing her to the sun or air.”

12. This is a reference to the milestone Act of Parliament of 1601 under Elizabeth I, “An Act for the Relief of the Poor.”

13. Giammaria Ortes, Piflessione sulla Popolazione delle nazioni per rapporto all’Economia nazionale, 1790.

14. The United Nations report, The Future of Fertility in Intermediate-Fertility Countries, says openly that even in those nations which had high population growth in the middle of the 20th Century, fertility must clearly fall below the rate of 2.1 children per woman, the rate necessary to keep the size of the population constant.

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