We all have a way of facing life, the world, and other people. We develop a “sense” or a “feel,” a sort of continuing emotion that corresponds to our overall view of life—“it’s a wonderful world” on the one hand, or “life’s a bitch, and then you die” on the other. Ayn Rand called this a “sense of life,” and she describes it fully in her brilliant book, The Romantic Manifesto (which I love).
A recent editorial from the WSJ Editorial Board vividly portrays this in a discussion of the gloomy, doomy Paul Ehrlich, who wrongly predicted in his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, that human population growth would lead to hundreds of millions (including Americans) starving to death over the course of the next decade:
As with Thomas Malthus, the father of gloom-and-doomers, the repeated failures of Mr. Ehrlich’s predictions of catastrophe to materialize never seem to discourage those who believe human beings are breeding and consuming our way to destruction.
The reason these prophecies fail is that they ignore the most decisive variable: human ingenuity. In the years since Mr. Ehrlich’s first forecast apocalypse, human beings have found untold new ways to improve life on earth—e.g., by reclaiming arable land, inventing new medicines, increasing food production, making clean water more available, and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.
Operating with what is clearly an irrational and miserable sense of life, Mr. Ehrlich, and others like him in the environmental movement, have had a devastating influence. Buying into their predictions of disaster, politicians the world over have responded with onerous and destructive policies.
Yet against this backdrop of doomsday predictions, entrepreneurs—with their uplifting, inspiring sense of life—continue to make life amazingly better for everyone.
Carl B. Barney
January 6, 2023