Earth Is Nearly 520 Percent More Abundant Now Than in 1980

Thanks to the ultimate resource: the human mind

RONALD BAILEY | 5.31.2019 Reason

Good news: The Earth was 518.98 percent more abundant last year than it was in 1980.

So says the latest edition of the Simon Abundance Index, which tracks the relative availability of 50 fundamental commodities over time. The index, which was first unveiled last year by Marian Tupy of the Cato Institute and Gale Pooley of Brigham Young University–Hawaii, was inspired by economist Julian Simon’s famous win over population bomber Paul Ehrlich in a bet on whether the prices of a basket of non-renewable resources would rise or fall between 1980 and 1990. They fell by more than 50 percent, and in 1990 Ehrlich mailed Simon a check for $576.07.

In constructing the index, Tupy and Pooley first measure the “time price” of that basket of 50 commodities—that is, the amount of time that a person has to work in order to earn enough money to buy something. They calculate this by multiplying the World Bank’s average global GDP per person with the Conference Board’s estimate of annual hours worked. Tupy and Pooley find that from 1980 and 2018, the average time price of the basket of 50 basic commodities fell by 72.3 percent. In other words, the time it took to earn enough money to buy one unit in that basket of commodities in 1980 bought 3.62 units in 2018.