August 23, 2005

A license to print money

John Tierney has bet an investment banker who claims oil will cost an average of $200 per barrel in 2010 (in 2005 dollars), or triple the current price, $5,000 that it will cost less. I don't know anything about the oil business, but I imagine Colby Cosh could tell us just how much oil Alberta, Canada could supply at any given three digit price from its nearly unlimited expanse of oil sands.

How come Tierney finds these suckers and I don't? I tried to bet Michael Barone $1,000 last year that Hispanic turnout would be closer to my estimate of 6.1% of the total vote than his 9% speculation (according to the Census Bureau, it was 6.0%), but Barone prudently shied away.

One point of clarification in Tierney's piece. He writes:

After collecting his winnings [from ecologist Paul Ehrlich], Julian [Simon] expanded his challenge, offering to bet anyone on any other resource price or measure of human welfare. Julian, who died in 1998, never managed to persuade Mr. Ehrlich or other prominent doomsayers to take his bets again.

Actually, Ehrlich offered Simon a detailed 15 issue bet in 1995 that Simon didn't accept before his death a few years later. Ehrlich is kind of a bozo, who became famous mostly because he has this incredibly impressive speaking voice (Johnny Carson had him on the Tonight Show dozens of times). Still, Ehrlich learned a lot from his previous loss, and thus stuck to problems where the market economy doesn't work well at solving problems, such as fish harvests. Beef harvests don't go down because every cow is owned by somebody, but nobody owns the ocean's fish, so they have been badly overfished in a standard tragedy of the commons problem.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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