As conservatives, we’re dispositionally inclined to worry about the things we might lose — or have already lost — and it sure feels like we’ve been on the losing side of things of late. And, heck, even if all goes well in 2016, it’s going to be devilishly difficult to undo the damage that’s been done. In short, there’s no shortage of legitimate reasons to feel down about some very important issues.
On the other hand, there’s also plenty of reason for optimism and hope, and Ron Bailey’s new book The End of Doom showcases some of the most promising trends of the next century. Specifically regarding population growth, access to commodities such as food and energy, medical advances, and the likelihood that we’ll be able to adapt to innovate our way out of the challenges of Climate Change.
Bailey’s thesis is that the Malthusian doom-mongers have everything wrong because we’re (largely) past some major resource bottlenecks and should be able to innovate our way out of new ones. Unprecedented population growth is already largely behind us, so those susceptible to fecundophobia should chill and stop carping about those who choose to have larger families. Moreover, we’ve already found better ways to grow groups and harness energy ever than before — and have seen prices for both plummet in the last few years — and Climate Change is likely to be mild enough to be manageable through innovation. If we got through the problems of nearly-exponential growth without the technology and knowledge now available to us, we should be able to do quite well in the near future.
Among Bailey’s biggest concerns are that we’re going to fail to realize some improvement through over-caution and unnecessary intervention. It’s at least plausible — and perhaps likely — he says, that more lives would be saved by having fewer controls on drug development: while a handful of additional people might die from unknown complications, many more would likely live due to access to strongly-suspected, but-not-wholly-conformed benefits awaiting full regulatory approval. Likewise, many people’s misplaced fears of nuclear energy blind them to its usefulness while making its proliferation needlessly expensive. We need to freedom he said, to experiment, take some risks, and find new solutions. As he says in his Cato interview:
There is no trial without error. We learn from failure, not from success.
Let’s allow people to go make some errors. We’ll all be better off for it.