Fewer, Richer, GreenerProspects for Humanity in an Age of Abundance
How the world has become much better and why optimism is abundantly justified Why do so many people fear the future? Is their concern justified, or can we look forward to greater wealth and continued improvement in the way we live? Our world seems to be experiencing stagnant economic growth, climatic deterioration, dwindling natural resources, and an unsustainable level of population growth. The world is doomed, they argue, and there are just too many problems to overcome. But is this really the case? In Fewer, Richer, Greener, author Laurence B. Siegel reveals that the world has improved—and will continue to improve—in almost every dimension imaginable. This practical yet lighthearted book makes a convincing case for having gratitude for today’s world and optimism about the bountiful world of tomorrow. Life has actually improved tremendously. We live in the safest, most prosperous time in all human history. Whatever the metric—food, health, longevity, education, conflict—it is demonstrably true that right now is the best time to be alive. The recent, dramatic slowing in global population growth continues to spread prosperity from the developed to the developing world. Technology is helping billions of people rise above levels of mere subsistence. This technology of prosperity is cumulative and rapidly improving: we use it to solve problems in ways that would have be unimaginable only a few decades ago. An optimistic antidote for pessimism and fear, this book: Helps to restore and reinforce our faith in the future Documents and explains how global changes impact our present and influence our future Discusses the costs and unforeseen consequences of some of the changes occurring in the modern world Offers engaging narrative, accurate data and research, and an in-depth look at the best books on the topic by leading thinkers Traces the history of economic progress and explores its consequences for human life around the world Fewer, Richer, Greener: Prospects for Humanity in an Age of Abundance is a must-read for anyone who wishes to regain hope for the present and wants to build a better future.
Foreword vii Preface xiii Acknowledgments xvii Part I The Great Betterment 1 Right Here, Right Now 3 Part II Fewer 2 The Population Explosion, Malthus, and the Ghost of Christmas Present 19 3 The Demographic Transition: Running Out of and Into People 31 4 Having Fewer Children: “People Respond to Incentives” 43 5 Age Before Beauty: Life in an Aging Society 59 Part III Richer 6 Before the Great Enrichment: The Year 1 to 1750 79 7 The Great Enrichment: 1750 to Today 89 8 Food 101 9 Health and Longevity 121 10 Energy: A BTU is a Unit of Work You Don’t Have to Do 135 11 Cities 155 12 Education: The Third Democratization 171 13 Conflict, Safety, and Freedom 191 14 The Alleviation of Poverty 217 Part IV Explorations 15 Robots Don’t Work for Free: A Meditation on Technology and Jobs 245 16 The Mismeasurement of Growth: Why You Aren’t Driving a Model T 269 17 The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: Deirdre McCloskey, Capitalism, and Christian Ethics 285 18 Simon and Ehrlich: Cornucopianism versus the Limits to Growth 299 19 Obstacles 305 20 “He Shall Laugh”: Why Weren’t Our Ancestors Miserable All the Time? 319 Part V Greener 21 Prologue: Why Poor is Brown and Rich is Green 331 22 A Skeptical Environmentalist: The Greening World of Bjørn Lomborg 339 23 Dematerialization: Where Did My Record Collection Go? 355 24 “We are as Gods”: The Fertile Mind of Stewart Brand 369 25 Ecomodernism: A Way Forward 379 Afterword 403 Reader’s Guide: Annotated Suggestions for Further Learning 407 References 415 Index 439
LAURENCE B. SIEGEL is the Gary P. Brinson Director of Research at the CFA Institute Research Foundation and a writer, speaker, and consultant specializing in economics and investment management. Siegel is the author of more than 200 articles on investing and related topics. He has won many writing awards including the Graham and Dodd Award, Bernstein Fabozzi/Jacobs Levy Award, and the EDHEC/Robeco Award.
The news is filled with doomsday stories claiming our world is experiencing stagnant economic growth, environmental deterioration, dwindling natural resources, and an unsustainable increase in world population. For years we've been told that the population explosion will lead to impoverishment and perhaps kill us all. Fewer, Richer, Greener: Prospects for Humanity in an Age of Abundance debunks these notions and explains that we will have fewer people than we were expecting, we will become richer, and, perhaps most surprisingly, that the planet will become greener. While there are always reasons for concern, Laurence Siegel explains that we have more reasons to be optimistic about the future than not. Life has improved greatly in the last 250 years; Fewer, Richer, Greener makes the argument that it will continue to improve in almost every aspect including health, wealth, longevity, nutrition, literacy, peace, and freedom. Without ignoring the many challenges on the path of progress, the book helps restore faith in the future and offers an understanding of why hope is justified. Fewer, Richer, Greener is written in a lucid and witty style, filled with art, architecture, poetry, and personal reflection as well as accurate data and research, and offers an in-depth look at the best books on the topic by leading thinkers. Designed to transform conventional thinking, the book makes a convincing case for having gratitude for today's world and optimism about the bountiful world of tomorrow. We can look forward to technology that makes life more pleasant and interesting and enables more people to have access to the rich cultural legacy of millennia of human accomplishment. Siegel reveals that we are at a turning point where the economic development of the past 200 years in the first world has begun to spread to the rest of the globe. This future will not be without problems, but we will have the knowledge and technology to solve problems in ways that would have been unimaginable only a few decades ago.
How the world has improved and why optimism about the future is abundantly justified "A Condorcet for today, Siegel argues persuasively and vividly that human ingenuity triumphs over limits to growth. A wonderful antidote to apocalyptic predictions about humanity's future. It's easy to forget that, in the span of a single lifetime, the lives of billions have been improved and enriched by innovation and progress." —Professor William N. Goetzmann, Yale University, author of Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible "Somewhere between Rev. Thomas Malthus and Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss lies Larry Siegel. Bringing the same sharp analysis, wit, and willingness to break with conventional wisdom that he's applied to investment analysis for many years, Larry is a welcome voice of measured optimism in a world chock full of doomsayers. He doesn't shy away from real problems—but he puts paid to the notion that things are getting worse and worse and that we're all doomed." —Cliff Asness, founder, AQR "A refreshing look at the state of the world—food, health and longevity, energy, cities, education, freedom, poverty, robots, economic growth, the environment—through the eyes of one of today's most perceptive observers, Fewer, Richer, Greener will entertain, amuse, and enlighten in a way that few other books can. Read, enjoy, and learn—Siegel sees our uncertain future through a completely different set of lenses." —William J. Bernstein, bestselling author of A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World and The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World Was Created "That great explainer of everything to everybody." —Richard Flannery, CEO of The Investment Fund for Foundations "The arc of history shows we're living longer, getting richer, warring less, and enjoying more freedom. And it's going to continue, naysayers and pessimists be damned. That's the message in Larry Siegel's new book, Fewer, Richer, Greener. Siegel is a polymath with a wonderful ability to explain and support his views without being pompous or preachy. Exploring the nexus of demography, economics, science, and history, Larry provides an honest, clear-eyed view of the present and a realistic, refreshingly optimistic view of the future." —Lee A. Kaplan, M.D., former Director of Clinical Dermatology, University of California San Diego
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