More population, more wealth, expansion of resources, a cleaner environment: that
sums up the entire economic history of humanity. For more than two million years, until
the eighteenth century, the growth of population was slow. Neither health nor the
mortality rate improved noticeably and there was only a slight growth in natural
resources. And besides that, the growth in wealth was only for a few people.
or 1800 population has grown rapidly due to a spectacular reduction in the mortality rate,
a rapid growth of resources, an expansive increment in wealth and a much cleaner
environment in the wealthy areas of the world.
The planet is not in 'crisis'
If we base our conclusions on the facts proven by science, the current pessimism about
the "crisis" of our planet is false. Even ecologists now recognize that, in
recent decades, the quality of water and air in the wealthy countries, such as the United
States or Spain, has improved. Every agricultural economist knows that the population of
the world has eaten better and better since the Second World War. Every economist who is
an expert in natural resources knows that the availability of resources has grown¾ a fact that is reflected in a drop in prices with respect to
previous decades and centuries. And every demographer knows that the mortality rates have
declined throughout the world and that life expectancy has almost tripled in the wealthy
nations in recent centuries and has nearly doubled in the poorer countries in the last
In the short run, all resources are limited. An example of that is the amount of
attention that I can now get from you. But in the long run, the situation is different.
From the beginning of the modern era, the standard of living has grown at the same time as
the size of the worlds population has grown. There is no convincing economic reason
why this tendency toward a better life should not continue indefinitely.
The basic idea is that growth in population creates a demand that provokes an increase
in prices. The increase in prices creates opportunities that attract businesses and
scientists to be able to satisfy the demand and thus increase their income. Most of them
fail and they personally absorb the costs. But after a while, some are successful and find
solutions. At the end you have a situation better than if there had not been a problem of
scarcity. All this is to say that there are going to be problems, naturally. But it does
not mean that we should create more problems than already exist.
Nations must guarantee personal freedom
There is another crucial element in the economy of resources and population: the point
at which the political, economic and social system guarantees personal freedom in the face
of government coercion. Qualified workers require an appropriate social and economic
framework that favors hard work and the assumption of risks, a framework that permits
talent to be used. The key element of this framework is economic freedom and the respect
for property and market laws that are just and sensible¾ that
strengthen the equality of everyone.
The worlds problem is not an excess of population, but a lack of political and
economic freedom. The evidence for this is found in an extraordinary experiment that began
in the 1940s in three pairs of countries with the same culture and history and the same
standard of living at the moment that they separated: West Germany and East Germany, North
Korea and South Korea, Taiwan and China. In all three cases, the communist country, the
country of central planning, started with a smaller population, if measured by density per
square mile. The communist and non-communist countries also started with the same
People are the ultimate resource
The market-based economies developed much faster than the economies based on central
planning. The economic-political system was clearly the dominant force in the results of
the three comparisons. This powerful version of economic development gives the lie to
theories that population growth is the key to explain the speed of economic development of
The population growth causes problems. But people solve problems. The principal fuel
for the acceleration of progress is our "stock" of knowledge; and the brakes
are: a lack of imagination and erroneous social regulations of activities.
People are the ultimate resource, especially qualified and hopeful young people who
work with freedom. Young people who use their energies and imagination perhaps for their
own benefit, but who inevitably benefit all the rest of us as well.