Rich Life Lab

Marian Tupy: How much BETTER or WORSE is the world getting? #16

April 13, 2023
Marian Tupy: How much BETTER or WORSE is the world getting? #16
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Rich Life Lab
Marian Tupy: How much BETTER or WORSE is the world getting? #16
Apr 13, 2023

Marion Tupy is the founder and editor of www.human and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He's also co-author of the Simon Abundance Index.

He specializes in globalization and global wellbeing and is co-author of a recent book called "Superabundance, the Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet. His articles have been published in The Financial Times, The Washington Post, the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and many more. And he's appeared on the BBC, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and many other channels.

Marion's research and conclusions run counter to most of what we hear in the news about the direction of our planet and the direction of our civilization. He and his partner studied 200 years of data to show the actual facts about the progress of humanity and the level of flourishing and abundance we currently have.

We discuss a concept for measuring abundance which he calls "time price" and also talk about whether the planet can sustain the current population at its growth rate. We discuss As you'll see, Marion's data says a lot about the richness of life that we currently have and may be looking to have in the future. I hope you enjoy this conversation because it's certainly helped to shape my perspective.

Show links:
Superabundance Book
The Lancet
Show Notes: 

[6:37] What creates the overwhelmingly negative narrative about the state of the world. 
[14:35] The core thesis of Marian's book Superabundance
[20:16] Marian explains why using time to measure price increases over time is optimal. 
[26:52] How much the cost of things has changed in the last 200 years. 
[30:26] Happiness statistics. 
[35: 38] Individual abundance versus global abundance measurements. 
[38:16] What level of population can the world sustain. 
[42:47] Why Marian believes we won't ever run out of oil. 
[55:34] The importance of a clean abundant natural world and why it's not as bad as some say. 
[59:50] The difference between optimism and complacency. 
[1:04:46] Does money lead to happiness? 
[1:11:39] The greatest risks for future abundance.

Show Notes Transcript

Marion Tupy is the founder and editor of www.human and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He's also co-author of the Simon Abundance Index.

He specializes in globalization and global wellbeing and is co-author of a recent book called "Superabundance, the Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet. His articles have been published in The Financial Times, The Washington Post, the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and many more. And he's appeared on the BBC, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and many other channels.

Marion's research and conclusions run counter to most of what we hear in the news about the direction of our planet and the direction of our civilization. He and his partner studied 200 years of data to show the actual facts about the progress of humanity and the level of flourishing and abundance we currently have.

We discuss a concept for measuring abundance which he calls "time price" and also talk about whether the planet can sustain the current population at its growth rate. We discuss As you'll see, Marion's data says a lot about the richness of life that we currently have and may be looking to have in the future. I hope you enjoy this conversation because it's certainly helped to shape my perspective.

Show links:
Superabundance Book
The Lancet
Show Notes: 

[6:37] What creates the overwhelmingly negative narrative about the state of the world. 
[14:35] The core thesis of Marian's book Superabundance
[20:16] Marian explains why using time to measure price increases over time is optimal. 
[26:52] How much the cost of things has changed in the last 200 years. 
[30:26] Happiness statistics. 
[35: 38] Individual abundance versus global abundance measurements. 
[38:16] What level of population can the world sustain. 
[42:47] Why Marian believes we won't ever run out of oil. 
[55:34] The importance of a clean abundant natural world and why it's not as bad as some say. 
[59:50] The difference between optimism and complacency. 
[1:04:46] Does money lead to happiness? 
[1:11:39] The greatest risks for future abundance.

[00:00:00] Marian Tupy: And so in the book, uh, we spend a lot of time and we show a lot of data showing that actually as population increases, so does abundance of resources, how does that happen? And it happens because, um, because, uh, every new human being comes into the world, not just with an empty stomach, but also with a brain capable of inventing and innovating of new ways of getting to stuff, you know, um, to take typical example of natural gas, for example, or oil, um, you know, uh, who would've thought that we would come up with, uh, fracking.

Um, you know, that's a new technology which allows us to access, um, uh, previously unaccessible or inaccessible, um, reserves of, of, uh, of fossil fuels. 

[00:00:45] Nathan Hurd: Today's conversation is with Marion. The editor of human and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He's also co-author of the Simon Abundance Index.

He specializes in globalization and [00:01:00] global wellbeing and is co-author of a recent book called Superabundance, the Story of population Growth, innovation, and Human Flourishing on an infinitely bountiful planet. His articles have been published in The Financial Times, the Post, the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and many more.

And he's appeared on the B B C C N, N C N B C M S N B C, Fox News and many other channels. And you'll see why Marion's work and his partners. Run counter to most of what we hear in the news about the direction of our planet and the direction of our civilization. He and his partner went back 200 years and studied an incredible amount of data to show the actual facts about the progress of humanity and the cost of our lives, the level of flourishing and abundance we currently have.

And we also talk about [00:02:00] population. You know, are there too many people? Are we going to have too many people? Can the planet sustain the population? As you'll see, Marion's data says a lot about the richness of life that we currently have and may be looking to have in the future. I hope you enjoy this conversation because it's certainly helped to shape my perspective.

And I hope it does. You too.

All right. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me. Well, thanks 

[00:02:40] Marian Tupy: for having me. Much appreciated. I 

[00:02:42] Nathan Hurd: thought we could start with, uh, first of all, I'm excited to talk about your, your work and in particular, your most recent book. Uh, super abundance and Super Abundance, the story of population growth, innovation and human flourishing on an infinitely bountiful [00:03:00] planet.

And for anyone watching or listening, the I, I feel like it's really hard to consume information about the world, honestly, without it being overwhelmingly slanted towards the negative, towards the pessimistic. And, uh, it seems like certainly when we're talking about anything having to do with our, the, the impact of our species on the planet, Um, it's just, it's just overwhelmingly negative, or at least that's why it seems to be.

So, your book, uh, as I read it, was such a refreshing and almost counterintuitive perspective on all of this. Um, and so I'm excited to, to dig into this, but I'm so curious whenever I come across work that is very different from what most of mainstream is saying, uh, I wonder where this passion or interest came from.

So before we dive into the, the actual thesis, uh, and some of the underlying research of your work and of the book, [00:04:00] what started you down this path? 

[00:04:02] Marian Tupy: Uh, well actually, uh, when I was at university, I devoted most of my time to the study of classics and international relations. Um, about 13 years ago, I started working on human progress.

Um, and, and that happened almost by chance. I read Matt Ridley's book, the Rational Optimist, and the book was just filled with so many anecdotes, uh, and so many statistics about how the world is, is getting better. And, uh, I thought to myself, well, uh, you know, I'm being paid essentially as a, as a policy analyst to know these things, but I didn't know half of them.

So what are the chances that, uh, people who have, uh, other things to do with their lives, uh, you know, go. You know, work at a factory or, um, what have you, um, and, and have to take care of kids and, um, look over their homework, et cetera, uh, to to to, uh, to what extent, you know, do they know about the real state of the world.

In fact, I try to avoid as much as [00:05:00] possible talking about my, uh, about myself as an optimist. I'm, I, I think that I'm a, uh, I, I just, uh, I I think that, uh, I'm, I'm a realist. In other words, I look at the world and I see a lot of good things happening. Uh, not everything is working out. If everything was working out for everyone everywhere, that would be a miracle, not progress.

Um, but, uh, the list of things, uh, on which the world is improving is much longer than, than the list of things that, where things are going worse than before. And so I really have devoted the last. 12, 13 years of my life towards, uh, spreading the word that, um, we are not heading for apocalypse. Um, or if we are heading there, it'll be due to things like, um, you know, an asteroid strike or a nuclear war rather than, uh, rather than necessarily say running out of resources or, uh, things like that.

So that actually ties into the book because so much of the world, uh, news [00:06:00] around is, is about the doom and gloom and much of it has to do with our impact on the planet. And the book is really trying to, um, trying to answer some of those concerns. Yeah. 

[00:06:11] Nathan Hurd: And I, you know, I love in the book that you use so many different examples and anecdotes in, in both from, you know, popular culture movies, some of the, you know, the biggest movies going back decades now, um, about the future of humanity and, and how those are, are oftentimes sled towards apocalyptic scenarios.

Um, what is it from your perspective that has created this overwhelmingly negative narrat? 

[00:06:37] Marian Tupy: Well, I think, uh, it's a lot of things. This is a, this is a complex subject, but fundamentally I think that we have evolved to prioritize, uh, bad news over good news. Um, you know, the typical example that people give is that if you're walking through Bush and, uh, you see um, you know, noise behind, behind a tree or something like that, um, you know, you have two [00:07:00] ways.

Of, of handling that, uh, you may decide, oh, well, it's probably nothing. You keep walking. But in fact, there's a lion hiding behind, uh, the tree. And, uh, the lion eats you well, uh, you know, then, then your genes are done. You know, you're not going to pass your optimistic genes onto, onto your progeny. On the other hand, if, uh, you think that, oh, could be a lion and therefore I'm going to run in the opposite direction, uh, you know, those genes get passed on to your children.

So, in fact, uh, evolution suggests that, uh, um, uh, people who overemphasized risk would have been selected for over people who underestimated risk, right? Uh, the, the cost of, um, the cost of overreacting to a non-existent threat is much lower than a cost of underreacting to a real threat. And so we have a evolved for the negative and, um, You can of course see it today as well.

The reason why the newspapers always lead with the [00:08:00] worst possible things happening. You know, if it bleeds, it leads, there is a reason for it. If you're trying to sell a newspaper or a magazine, you always lead with the shocking. Uh, if you are, if you're on a newscast, um, at 8:00 PM you wanna lead with the most dramatic stories.

Nobody, uh, uh, Steven Pinker from Harvard pointed out, nobody, uh, expects to see a report of a journalist standing in the middle of a city where everything is going well, you know? Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely. But yeah, so, so I think evolution has a lot to do with it, and, and that has changed us, uh, both, uh, physiologically and also psychologically.

And so we are predisposed to, to look out for the bad news. You 

[00:08:38] Nathan Hurd: know, it's, um, yeah, I, I mean, I think everyone can relate to that and, and it, I used to give for many years, uh, when I would speak publicly, I, you know, our, my, my work, my day, my day job is in, in related to investments, uh, and investment analysis.

And I used to give slides of headlines, newspaper headlines, going back a hundred years. And I would be, you [00:09:00] know, just randomly selected headlines. But they would be a slide for doom and gloom, bearish headlines. And then sometimes I'd have a slide for bullish headlines, and I would ask the audience, if you had to guess when, when did these headlines come from?

And even though there were nuanced differences in language that have changed over the years, almost always the response would be a specific period of time. And typically it would be more recently. So, you know, it's just, it's just of course, very true that we have this, you know, recency bias, but also this constant state of, of worry, it seems.

Um, I guess what, from your perspective is the. Is the biggest risk of having this negative expectation as a society because we have media companies which are now incentivized, social media included. Um, that's, as you just described, that it's kind of, it knows how to rile us up and that tends to be through the fear.

So, you know, what's the biggest risk of having a society that's [00:10:00] wired that way, even though we may 

[00:10:01] Marian Tupy: genetic. Yeah, I'm not sure if it's the biggest risk. I mean, some that come to mind immediately would be things like anxiety. Um, you know, um, studies show that people in the west are much more anxious than people in non-Western countries, often, much poorer countries.

So even though we can say objectively that life in the west is much better than, say, in Africa, Latin America, our anxiety levels are much higher. Um, and that is probably connected to also how, how, how the, the rep reportage on the state of the planet. Um, you know, if, if you think like I do that envir environmental quality is a luxury good, that doesn't mean it's a bad thing.

Uh, you know, I very, I much favor, um, um, cleaner planet. Uh, but if, if. Is on the top of your hierarchy of priorities, you know, and you constantly hear that, uh, the planet is being destroyed, um, then, then you are going to be much more anxious. Whereas people in [00:11:00] poor countries, they have other worries than than worry about, uh, the, the polar bears or, um, or the whales or, you know, panda bears.

Uh, they have to feed their families. So, so they have a totally different set of priorities than, than people in the west do. And so there is a tremendous increase in anxiety, uh, uh, in, in the west. Uh, some of it is connected to the environment. It's called eco anxiety. Uh, children coming from school crying.

You know, mommy, mommy, the world is going to end. Or maybe I, you know, why are you giving me. Lunch, you know, I cannot have this sandwich because a child in Africa is starving, even though the two are completely disconnected. So, so, uh, so anxiety is one thing. The other thing is fatalism, you know, um, if you are going to improve the world, um, in whatever way, um, you have to believe that your individual, um, uh, efforts are going to make a difference.

Um, but, but, but so much of the apocalyp, [00:12:00] apocalyptic doom and gloom sort of infuses people with fatalism. Oh, well there is nothing that can be done. The world is going to end anyway. Uh, so that's not a good state of mind either, because what differentiates modern standard of living from the past, say 2, 250 years ago, it is precisely solutionism.

It is the fact that for a short period in, in Western history, um, Uh, uh, innovation, inventiveness Innovation, uh, progress became, became sort of embraced. I mean, uh, this, this, this notion of looking at the world as being filled with problems that can be solved, that's very new. Our ancestors never thought of solving problems.

Um, takes something like diseases. They thought, well, first of all, they couldn't identify them, um, but they certainly never thought of, of curing a disease. Um, you know, except for the prayer. Um, they, they never thought of, uh, of actually, um, Permanently curing a set of [00:13:00] diseases. Whereas now when you have a new illness or new disease that comes down the pipeline, the first thing that that human beings want to do is to find a solution to it.

Uh, so, um, there are certain aspects, and, and that is the puzzle, is that when it comes to Covid Covid 19, for example, immediately the Western subtleties were like, what can we do in order to resolve this with a vaccine? Whereas when it comes to, uh, other things like the environment, uh, there's this feeling of futility and nihilism that nothing can be done.

But if we embrace technological solutions to medical problems like Covid 19, why cannot we also embrace medical, uh, technological solutions to environmental problems? Uh, doesn't make any sense. Yeah. 

[00:13:44] Nathan Hurd: Yeah. I, you know, I was, as I was reading your book, I was thinking about my own children and, you know, I had children and some part of me when, when I, when we decided to have kids, Believed that they could be part of a better future.

[00:14:00] And so, I I, it just as I read your book, it seems like such an important, um, perspective to at least explore if you want to be part of a better future. Let's lay out the case for your book. For, for everyone listening, could you describe the core thesis of your book? I and, and one specific example you, I've heard you describe super abundance.

As being population times freedom. Um, maybe start there and, and elaborate however you see fit. Sure, 

[00:14:35] Marian Tupy: I'll, I'll try. Um, so essentially people have been debating the relationship between population growth and resources on the planet for a very long time. We have evidence of, um, this debate taking place in ancient Greece and ancient China two and a half thousand years ago.

Um, and, um, uh, generally people have been ambivalent about population growth because they believe that, you know, when a population grows, [00:15:00] it'll ex exhaust resources and then you'll have a population collapse that was called the Malthusian Trap, so to speak. Um, and, uh, and, and, and, uh, certainly since the 1960s, uh, this has been a, uh, this has been a subject of, of much debate because after the Second World War, uh, primarily as a result of, uh, tremendous spreading of, of, uh, western medicine, um, and, uh, uh, Best, um, and best practices, uh, population around the world started to explode.

So in 1800, you've got 1 billion people in the world. As of two months ago, you have 8 billion people in the world. So people just saw this tremendous increase in population and they wondered what was going to happen to resources. So the idea was that, so once again, we will run out of resources and therefore the future of humanity was going to be starvation and death, right?

Mm-hmm. And so, um, obviously the famous bet that took place between Paul lik and, uh, Julian Simon takes place in [00:16:00] the 1980s. Paul Erlic was the, uh, or is he's still alive, the biologist from Stanford University claiming, you know, the, the end na, and then an economist from Maryland University, Julian Simon argued, no.

Uh, actually if you increase the number of people, resources will become more, uh, more, more abundant. Which was completely counterintuitive. And so they made this be, yeah, they made this bet on, on the price of five commodities over a 10 year period. And when that period came to an end, Earl had to pay Simon $576 because actually those resources became cheaper.

And so, uh, that bet ended in 1990. Uh, Julian Simon died in 1998, and what we did in this book, we simply took. To a, to a, uh, to the next level. Uh, instead of looking at five resources, we looked at 50, uh, resources to start with and, uh, going back all the way to 1850. And what we saw is that every 1% increase in population decreases the [00:17:00] time.

Prices will talk about those in a moment. Time, prices of resources by about, uh, 1%. Uh, time price basically means how long you have to work in order to afford something. And, uh, what we found is that compared to 1850, for example, many of these commodities have fallen in price by about 99%. Um, um, so, and, and that's that, that means that for the same amount of labor that you could, could, you could get one unit, uh, in 1850.

Now you can get 10 units in, uh, in, uh, or even a hundred units, uh, in, in, uh, in, in today's time. I mean, a perfect example would be something like rice, the same amount of labor. It would've taken you to buy one pound of rice in 1850. You will now get 111 pounds of rice. Okay. So that just gives you a sense of how extraordinarily we are prosperous, uh, when, when compared to the past.

And part of the reason, I think why so many people, um, um, are so, uh, are in a state of funk in, in the west today is because they have no idea what [00:18:00] life was like until relatively recently. They have a very rosy colored view of the past. Of the past. And so and so in the book, uh, we spend a lot of time and we show a lot of data showing that actually as population increases, So does abundance of resources, how does that happen?

And it happens because, um, because, uh, every new human being comes into the world, not just with an empty stomach, but also with a brain capable of inventing and innovating of new ways of getting to stuff, you know, um, to take typical example of natural gas, for example, or oil, um, you know, uh, who would've thought that we would come up with, uh, fracking.

Um, you know, that's a new technology which allows us to access, um, uh, previously inaccessible or inaccessible, um, reserves of, of, uh, of fossil fuels. And then of course, uh, down the road, uh, you may have fusion reactors, uh, which will [00:19:00] completely eliminate any kind of need for fossil fuels and will be able to run the world on electricity, uh, created by fusion or even fusion reactors.

So that gives you a sense of. That, that that really what separates us from the past, the richest of today from the past is not the natural resources. We have exactly the same amount of natural resources that people in the stone age had. The difference between their standards of living and our standards of living is new knowledge.

And that's basically the, the, the core of the book. 

[00:19:30] Nathan Hurd: So, alright, so in, in an, in an age of, in a moment, at least in time, where inflation, the, the, the, the concerns about inflation and the cost of everything are on the top of everyone's mind. Um, can, can you just slow down and, and explain the difference between, I think in your book you say something like, Um, the nominal measuring something by the nominal cost or the money cost is superior to the quantity.

And then measuring the time cost is superior to the nominal cost. Yeah. So given [00:20:00] that the, the time cost, I mean, that's fa that's a fascinating concept. I, I had never even considered that. Can you just explain the difference between how we tend to measure things Sure. And, and then the, the time cost and why it's so superior.

I think you list a few different reasons in the book. 

[00:20:16] Marian Tupy: Sure. So, um, biologists, accountants, physicists, they go around the world and they're looking for deposits of let's say copper. Um, and, uh, um, you know, we have a certain amount of known resources of copper or oil or zinc or whatever. And, um, You know, then we look at consumption and we say, oh my God, in a hundred years time or in 10 years time, we are going to run out of something.

Okay. But counting, counting quantities of something is the worst possible way of ascertaining whether something is getting cheaper or, or more expensive. Whether we are running out of something or not. Uh, you know, it's like going to a store. And counting the quantities of bread, you know, how many loafs of bread they're on the shelf, [00:21:00] that's irrelevant to you.

What, what, what you wanna know is what is the price of the loaf of bread that you wanna buy? Right? And, um, um, and quantities of resources are of course a concept which is, uh, highly, uh, subjective to, to change in prices. So if price of oil goes up, people have an incentive to look for more oil. You know, uh, I had some friends who put a lot of money into, um, uh, into oil about, uh, about 18 months ago thinking that, you know, the price was just gonna go up stratospherically.

But what they, what they didn't realize is that, of course, once the price of oil starts going up, people will have an incentive to look for additional deposits of oil, uh, look for alternatives, uh, and, and so on. And so, um, and, and so quantities of resources is this silly idea, uh, that, that we shouldn't worry too much about.

Um, And the, so price is a much better indicator whether something is getting more scarce or more abundant. But there are three different [00:22:00] prices. There is the nominal price that you see in the shop on daily basis, um, uh, and to get a sense of what's happening to the price and affordability of a long period of time.

You have to adjust for inflation. That's when you get the real price or inflation adjusted price. Mm-hmm. And that's what most people use when they're trying to estimate, um, the abundance of resources. But there is a fundamental problem with real price, uh, and that is that it does not account to what is happening in your wallet.

So if the real price of something increases by a hundred percent, uh, but the amount of money in your wallet over, you know, over the same period of time has increased by 200% infl, inflation adjusted, then you're still getting ahead, right? Time price, basically time price is this innovation which allows you to take into account both the price of the commodity or a good or a service that you're buying and the amount of money in your wallet.

And typically what happens over long stretches of time is that, is that human beings, um, is, is that, is that incomes tend to grow at a faster pace than, [00:23:00] than, than than inflation or prices, right? Because we become more and more productive. The reason why GDP per capita in the United States today is $70,000, uh, or maybe it's per household, uh, whereas it was maybe, you know, uh, it was much less in the past is because we are much more productive.

We have all these wonderful gizmos and more knowledge, so we are more productive species. And so, and so the time prize basically asks you. What is the nominal price of a loaf of bread? Let's say $2. What is your hourly income? Um, so let's say it's, I don't know, $10. Mm-hmm. Um, and, and that will give you the time price of a loaf of bread, which is 10 divided by two.

Okay? You can get five loafs of bread for, for an hour of work, right? I have in it. Now, if in a hundred years time, loaf of bread suddenly costs $10, but you are making a hundred dollars an. Then you can get 10 loads of bread for an hour of work. And the beauty of time price is that it allows you to put both the nominal price of a good, but also your [00:24:00] wages into one price.

And it's called time price. How many minutes or hours of work does it take you to buy something? There are other advantages to time prices. Uh, one is that you can do international comparison very easily. You don't have to, you don't have to translate into, uh, rupees, uh, or worry about purchasing. Power.

Parity and hour of work is the same, um, in China as it is in the United States. If a Chinese person has to work two hours for something that an American can get in one hour, we can say an American is twice as well off as a Chinese. Right? And lastly, well actually thirdly, um, time, price, uh, allows you to do.

Across time cost comparison. So for example, you can compare your standard of living to an American in, in 1,850 or, or 1800. You don't have to worry about what happened to inflation over that period of time. Um, uh, you just ask. A worker, my ancestor in 1850 had to work two hours off for something. Now I can do it in half an hour, therefore I'm four [00:25:00] times as well off.

And finally, time is non inflatable. It is a constant for general purposes. And so everybody has equal amount of time, 24 hours in a day. Um, and, uh, and uh, it cannot be inflated. It cannot be perverted by government printing more time or something like that. And so, so in many ways, time prices, uh, are a better way of looking at standard living and estimating what's, uh, what's going up and what's going down.

There is one. Big, uh, negative to time price, but it's the same, but it's the same drawback as every other price has, which is that we don't, we cannot account for changes in quality. Uh, meaning that you cannot really compare an iPhone from 10 years ago with an iPhone today. But what we can do is comparing, like with like, uh, a pound of rice is the same today as it was in 1850, right?

Uh, a five kilo bag of, uh, potatoes is the same as it was back then. So for these basic things, uh, we can get a very good sense of, [00:26:00] um, of what has gotten cheaper and what has gotten more expensive. And reality is that for most people, especially the people at the very, very bottom of the income ladder, mm-hmm.

Uh, people who worry much more about a gallon of milk, uh, or a gallon of gas rather than a Lamborghini or an iPhone, um, that it's actually a very good way of estimating what is happening at the very, very bottom of the income ladder. 

[00:26:25] Nathan Hurd: So th this is the, I mean, we hear all the time about, um, minimum wage and about the stagnating middle class and all of these sorts of things.

In your research, what specifically did you find, I, I, in fact, I remember there's, uh, you have some really wonderful data laid out and graphs in the book, but what did you find about time prices for the lower and middle class? Um, I guess, 

[00:26:52] Marian Tupy: well, well, we, we can start by, uh, doing a bit of a, if you will, a, um, sort of a, uh, mental exercise [00:27:00] here and ask ourselves Okay.

Um, in the Middle Ages, Um, 80% of people's disposable income was spent on food. 40% of that, uh, 40% of that on, on bread alone. Okay? Um, so that gives you a sense of a standard of living, of somebody who, who lived, say, three or 400 years ago, 80% of, of disposable income on food, roughly half of that on bread alone.

Today, if you're working on a minimum wage, which right now in the country is about $15 an hour, because very few people actually work on the federal minimum wage mo mostly, most people take home around, you know, 14, $15 an hour, and a Costco chicken costs you $5, right? So for an hour of labor, On a minimum wage, you can get three Costco chickens, roughly three and a half thousand calories.

Um, uh, which [00:28:00] just gives you a sense of how much better off we are in terms of how our ancestors were living. Um, but a more typical example that I could give you, um, let's just take the least fortunate people in our society. These would be, uh, least fortunate working people in our society. I'm talking about unskilled workers, let's say somebody like a janitor.

Mm-hmm. So between 1850 and 2018, and this is where my age goes, come into it because I need to put glasses on, but, um, between 1850 and 2018, uh, the average time price of food fell by 96%. Um, as you know, if something goes up in price by 100%, you get only half as much. Mm-hmm. But if something goes down by a hundred percent, it becomes free.

So a 96% reduction in time price of these commodities that we looked at means that for the same amount of work that he would get one unit. Now this worker gets 28 units. [00:29:00] Okay? Um, yeah, that's okay. Sugar, 99% decline, which means that for the same amount of work that would get him one pound of sugar in 1850, now he gets 110, uh, pounds of sugar.

Rice, 56 pounds of sugar instead of one tea, 51 pounds of tea instead of one um, pork, 36 pounds of pork instead of one for the same amount of labor. Uh, wheat. 31 pounds of wheat for the price of one corn, 26 pounds of corn instead of one. So, and, and this is, this is from a perspective of somebody who is making very, very little money, the, the unskilled labor, the janitor of, of, of our times.


[00:29:45] Nathan Hurd: So why, I mean, those, the, the statistics are amazing and especially when you, um, I invite anyone who, you know, who's listening to this, to, to, to look through the book because there's, you know, there's no shortage of extensive data that's really compelling. [00:30:00] What makes the lived experience of most people different from that?

In other words, do you think it's our expectation of, you know, our expectations that have shifted rapidly as things have gotten easier and more abundant, that have made us f you know, that have made us feel perhaps l uh, or, or connect less with how much things. Have improved? Or is 

[00:30:26] Marian Tupy: it that people just, um, yeah, no, I, I think it's more complicated than that.

Let's put aside the last two years, because we had inflation, which was running at a faster pace than wages. Mm-hmm. Price inflation was, uh, running at a faster pace than wages. So actually over the last two years, we have lost some of that progress that we have made. Uh, people are, realistically speaking, people are somewhat worse off than they were before covid.

Uh, that is, that is true. It's just that compared to 1850, we are still multiple times better [00:31:00] off. Right. So I think that what's going on is that, um, is that, uh, people's quote unquote lived experiences are not as bad as we think they are. Partly because people don't report to. Uh, to be particularly unhappy.

Our happiness statistics are not particularly bad. In fact, they're very good. And, uh, people generally tend to overestimate their own sense of, uh, of good fortune as opposed to the society. Um, what I mean by that is that it's this huge gap about how people perceive themselves to be doing and how the society is perceive that they perceive the society to be doing.

As a general's rule, people think that they're doing much better than the society. They always think that society's going to help, but they, they themselves are doing actually a relatively well, there's a massive gap in optimism about your own life as opposed to the society. Yeah. So that's one thing to keep in mind.

And then you can ask yourself a question, why is that? And I think that [00:32:00] part of it has to do with the fact that there is nobody making the case or explaining that things are actually much better. Um, in other words, you yourself know that you are doing better. Uh, and, and, and you are expressing it in public opinion, Paul, but you believe the society is de disintegrating, and why is that?

I think that part of it has to do, there is no natural constituency in the United States for saying that things are going well. When Democrats are in power. Republicans are saying the country's going to hell. Everything that, you know, the, the, the end deny, therefore vote for us. Where Republicans are in power, Democrats are saying the world is about to explode.

And the, the, the, the, the, the thin line that separates us from Armageddon is, is voting for the Democratic party. Yeah. So, so both parties have actually an incentive to constantly push the message of decline and destruction, because that's what gets people riled up and going to the polls. I think that's part of the reason, [00:33:00] aside from the negativity bias in the media and so forth.

[00:33:03] Nathan Hurd: I'm so glad you say that. And it's, you know, I mean the, the simple truth is that most people, most of the time are sitting. You know, if they pull out their phone and they re read through the news, or if they watch the local news that evening, they are looking at some horrible headline about some horrible thing that's happening to someone other than them sitting on their couch watching or reading mm-hmm.

The headline. Right. So yeah, that sort of natural comparison would lead, would lead one to be inclined that they're doing well off compare compared to everyone else. Yeah. 

[00:33:32] Marian Tupy: And I'm not entirely convinced by the arguments made about the social comparison literature, the social comparison literature. Um, I don't know where I stand on it.

I'm open-minded, but I don't know to what extent it's that important because people of course, have different desires and different things at the top of their pyramidal values. So people say, well, you know, uh, because Jim has a yacht [00:34:00] and I don't, therefore I should feel badly about it. That is generally recognized as, you know, That is generally the portrayal of the real world, but maybe some people don't care about yachts and they don't care about skiing holiday in, in Colorado.

Maybe their idea of a good time is to read a book or, um, uh, or, or go and visit with friends or get drunk in a pub. The point is that, uh, uh, the, the, the theory of social comparison assumes that everybody has the same, the same goals. So if somebody's richer, you must feel bad because you are not as rich and so forth.

Um, and I don't know to what extent that's true, because yeah, as I said, we have different goals in life. Yeah, 

[00:34:44] Nathan Hurd: I think that's a very fair point. I, I'm living in Baltimore, Maryland right now, and Baltimore City has all sorts of problems. So if we turn, if I turn on the evening news, it's fire, murder, crime, you know, one after the other.

And so in situations like that, it's, it's easy to [00:35:00] feel, wow, that's, that's very different from my lived experience. And I'm, I would expect, but you're right, everyone's preferences are different, and generally speaking, our way of life is so much better than it ever was. Our level of comfort on a day-to-day basis is so much better that, that, you would think those, those, uh, those things have changed a lot.

Um, you describe in the book the overflow and abundance of resources in two different categories. One is at a global or population level, and one is at the level of the individual. Can you describe the, the difference between these two e each of them separately? Sure. 

[00:35:38] Marian Tupy: Uh, the difference would be, think about a pizza analogy.

Uh, the, the individual level of abundance basically tells you how much your slice of pizza is. Is it ex increasing or not increasing? Right? And what we are claiming and showing actually with numbers is that your individual slice of pizza is actually, has increased tremendously over the last whatever, 150 years.

Um, [00:36:00] uh, the, the population level abundance measurement has to do with the overall pizza pie. The, the, the, the global, uh, resource abundance and the way you get there. You basically take your personal abundance, the individual abundance. That we have and has been increasing in resources, food, fuel, minerals, metals, whatever, services, even goods.

And then you multiply it by the additional number of people who have been born in the world. So, so population level abundance is just personal abundance times population. And why is that important? That's important because the expectation on the part of the doomsters was that as the numbers of people grow, resources should become more expensive and they should become, uh, less abundant.

We find the exact opposite. We find that for every 1% increase, um, in, in population, there is about 5% increase in personal abundance. And, and that happens because, because we are not just consumers, we are also producers. [00:37:00] We create more stuff all the time, often with the. Resources. So, you know, uh, let's take sand, something as simple as sand.

We, we, we melted sand down to make first glass beads and then jars about four and a half thousand years ago. But now we are using glass in order to power microchips in these computers over which we talk. So you can see how much more value, both in terms of, uh, well, both in terms of monetary value, but also in terms of productivity we have created by just thinking, uh, and creating new knowledge about the usage that we can put sand to.

And God only knows what it will be using sand in 200 or 2000 years. First time. 

[00:37:46] Nathan Hurd: Yeah. This, this, this is one of the most counterintuitive elements of the book for me, was that the, you're arguing that the greater the population becomes, the more abundance we will ultimately create. Do you, from your [00:38:00] perspective, Is there a limitation?

Is there an upper limit to that? Like if we end up with, even though I know that this is not what is suggested to happen, if we ended up with 25 billion people, do you foresee that that would continue on and on as we would continue to become more abundant? 

[00:38:16] Marian Tupy: Uh, that's a very good question. Uh, I've seen, uh, I've seen, uh, some people attempt to show that world would be able to be a home, uh, in, in comfort to about a hundred, a hundred billion people.

Um, but it's a moot point because of course, the global population is going to start declining after eight, after 2060 or 2080. And at the end of this century, there will be fewer people in the world than there are today. Um, and, and so that, that's not really an option, but 

[00:38:47] Nathan Hurd: what's the latest research on that?

Do you have a, a good source that people could 

[00:38:50] Marian Tupy: reference? Oh, sure. Uh, two years ago, Lance, the, probably the most authoritative, uh, uh, medical journal in the world predicted the global [00:39:00] population peaking at around nine and three quarters of a billion, uh, around 2080 and then start declining. And by 2100, uh, there may be 1 billion people fewer than, than today, or maybe same as today.

And why, why 

[00:39:15] Nathan Hurd: is that? Because when, as, as populations become more affluent, they tend to have fewer children. What's the, do you know what the mean 

[00:39:22] Marian Tupy: causes? That's, that's, that's correct. Yes. Yes. Uh, although, although whether you have fewer children or not, I, I would say that there are different, there are good and bad reasons for it.

The good reasons are when a woman and her husband decide to have fewer children because they want to do other things. Uh, but, but the bad, bad reason for having fewer children is things like worrying that the world is going, that the oceans are going to boil. And, um, you know, the world is going to come to an end in eight years as a o c said, uh, a few years ago.

So the, you know, the, the, the population growth, uh, [00:40:00] certainly can be impacted by that side, geist by the general sense of where the world is heading and, uh, What we show in the book is there are huge shares of the global population, very many people who don't want to have children because they, they, they worry that the world is going to come to an end.

They don't want to bring children into a burning world and things like that. And, and that, in my view, is an insane, uh, is, is, is an insane assertion. Um, but yes. Um, so, so back to your point, um, we can certainly feed and close and, and provide very good standard living for the people that we have and probably billions more.

But you also must understand that, uh, that population growth would have dynamic consequences for the economy and for the generation of human knowledge. So by the time that you would get to a, uh, to a hundred billion people, Population of the Earth, that would take so much time and that would bring into the [00:41:00] world so many, uh, more new ideas that we would have colonized the, the solar system by then, and we wouldn't have to be worried about the resources that we have on earth because we'd be able to pull, um, asteroids filled with iron or water from, you know, from, uh, from space and things like that.

So, uh, hypothetically, uh, could the world be, could, could the world cope with many, many, many more billions of people? Yes, it could. Uh, partly because again, you mustn't think about the current level of knowledge as being static. It would lead to massive expansion of human knowledge and therefore, our ability to cope in a world with that many more people.

[00:41:42] Nathan Hurd: Okay, so this, this relates to, to one other, uh, argument I've heard you make, which is ba basically what I'm hearing is that the, the, the larger the population becomes, the larger the quantity of hu ideas and ingenuity become. But also I've [00:42:00] heard you comment on, or at least I, I believe say, but correct me if I'm wrong, that things like, um, will never run out of oil and, and, or at least, you know, I, I I think I've heard you make an, made an argument in that case.

So part of this, I believe, is related to what happens when, as you described briefly earlier, what happens when prices start to rise or, you know, the, the resource becomes scarce. Can you talk a bit about that? 

[00:42:27] Marian Tupy: Um, Sure. I mean, um, what's the future for oil? Well, first thing to remember is that we have more known reserves of oil than we did a hundred years ago.

So after a hundred years of using oil, we now have more of it than we had before. Once again, more, more untapped, more known resource, known, more known reserves of oil, reserves of oil to today that we know exist. And of course, we were only able to scout a tiny fraction of the world. We have no idea where [00:43:00] else there is oil.

You know, we haven't explored the bottoms of the oceans. We haven't got to certain parts of the world which are difficult to, to, to get to, or maybe they're politically, um, unstable 

[00:43:10] Nathan Hurd: and that sort of thing. Which, which is also part of the reason why measuring by quantity, Is a problem because we don't actually know.

There's no way we could know right now how much, exactly how much oil there, there is. Yeah. That's part of it. 

[00:43:22] Marian Tupy: That's part of it. And of course, now let's assume that technology is frozen in time and that we cannot, we cannot get to more oil. Well then we use a hundred year old technology to convert coal into oil.

The Nazi Germany during the Second World War was converting much of the coal into oil. It's, it's, it's a very easy, um, uh, chemical process. Uh, South Africa, uh, under apartheid, um, uh, was producing most of its oil from, most of it gas, gas fo for cars from, from coal, uh, because there was an oil embargo on the country.

But [00:44:00] countries blessed with a lot of coal, so you just convert coal into, into oil. Uh, so we've known how to do that. So let's say that we now start using coal, of which we have. A lot to last tens of thousands of years to, to, to turn into oil. Now let's assume that tens of thousands of years in the future, uh, we have run out of both oil and coal.

Well, is it likely that we will still be using dead dinosaurs or, or, uh, you know, dead trees from millions of years ago, uh, to still power our civilization? I, I think it's very unlikely. Um, you know, so, so you will never run out of it because by the time it becomes too expensive to, to get to, because it's either too deep or too disperse, you are going to have probably a different altogether, different news source of, of energy that you, you're going to be using.


[00:44:53] Nathan Hurd: So the, the, the more difficult it becomes at a certain point, the pressure [00:45:00] for different solutions. Gets, gets so great. That becomes so great that that's part of the reason why we just would not continue to, that's 

[00:45:08] Marian Tupy: part of the reason. That's right. That's right. Which is why we still cannot, uh, you know, ask anybody, can you come up with a single resource that we have run out of?

We haven't. There have been some species that have died off, and we can talk about the biosphere. Mm-hmm. Uh, later on. Uh, but in terms of resources, we've never run out properly of anything. The moment that guano, which we used in order to fertilize our fields became very expensive. Um, we have developed synthetic ammonia, which we are using now in order to fertilize our fields.

And 50% of ammonia comes from natural gas, of which we have plenty because once again, we have come up 15 years ago with a new technology to get to natural gas and then, God only knows [00:46:00] what's gonna happen in 10 or 20 years. We, we have no idea. Um, uh, you know, what, what the state of technology is going to be and what resources we'll be using that we don't even know exist.

Again, the difference between us and, and the Stone Age is not the resources we have, the same resources as they had. It's the knowledge. Yeah. 

[00:46:19] Nathan Hurd: Yeah. Yeah. And that's certainly, I mean, I think everyone e even though I do think, and this I, I want to sort of challenge you with some of the main, uh, concerns that I think people, probably p people do have.

Sure. Um, but you know, I think everyone, while it's, you know, while it's pretty prevalent to hear about and see the effects on the biosphere, increases in pollution and, and so on and so forth, um, environmental destruction, et cetera, it's also. Very easy for all of us to relate to the rapid increase in technological, uh, advancement and innovation and so on and so forth.

[00:47:00] So I think probably it's not hard to, to for people to, uh, to understand both of those concepts. Now, um, how do you think about consumption levels generally? Like, one of the things that I am regularly wondering about is we have the ability now to consume at an incredible level. I don't know how many devices are plugged into the outlets of my home right now, but it's a lot.

And, um, just because we can consume at the rate we're consuming, uh, according to the research that you've produced. So let's just say that that's the case and once everyone reads the book, they, they'll see the research you've produced. Should we, should we be continuing to do that and, um, You know, how, what do you, what, what are your feelings 

[00:47:48] Marian Tupy: about?

Um, yeah. I, I, I think it's, this is highly subjective matter, uh, because of course, uh, you appear to have been a very successful, uh, person in finance. You are [00:48:00] enjoying a certain income. Uh, you have a certain kind of home, um, at a certain level of consumption. Uh, but most people are not in finance. Uh, most Americans.

Um, as I said, the, um, income per capita, uh, is about 60 or $70,000 a year. So, um, there, there is a lot of consumption that most Americans could, could still do in order to get to just your standard of living. Sure. Right? Sure. And, um, usually when I hear people talk about aren't we consuming too much, it's, it's mostly people who are doing well in life.

And of course, remember that that is. That, that, that, even though we live in an incredibly rich country, um, for a typical, uh, middle or lower, middle income American, uh, having a bigger house, um, or being able to take an extra [00:49:00] holiday or having fancier food, there's still a lot to go, a, a long way to go. And, and we are talking now about the richest country in the world, um, richest big country in the world.

If you look at standard living in Europe, western Europe, um, their consumption level is roughly on the level of Mississippi and Louisiana in the United States. The poorest nations, uh, sorry, the poorest states in the nation, which means that western Europe, which is the second richest region in the world, still has a long way to go just to get to the middle of the American standard living.

And then of course you have billions of people who have much less than we do. So when they see the standard of living that I enjoy, let alone the standard of living that you enjoy, there's a lot of consumption they could still imagine of having. And then once I, I assume that once we get to that level, there will be other things that will start appearing as, [00:50:00] um, as, as a desirable type of consumption.

Instead of going on a holiday to the Grand Canyon, maybe you want to go on a holiday to Australia and check out the Great Barrier Reef. Mm-hmm. Well, that's a lot of consumption right there in, in terms of, um, you know, air miles and um, and resources and things like that. So my general sense, that's a long way of saying that I think that human consumption or desire for a additional ways of enjoyment are probably infinite.

Um, and the reason why we. Think about limits of consumption at all is because we cannot foresee all the wonderful and crazy ways in which we could be consuming things in the future. Yeah. After all, when I got my first flip phone and I was finally liberated from having to be next to my [00:51:00] landline, I could never have imagined that I would find it necessary to spend $600 every three years to buy this thing.

Right? So here is an element of consumption that would've been unforeseeable 10 or 15 years, well, 20 years ago. And that is now considered to be an absolute basic for anybody living in the west today. So who knows what it is going to be? What, what the, what the, what the equivalent of a of a, of an iPhone is going to be in 20 years time.

Maybe it'll be a trip to the moon.

[00:51:37] Nathan Hurd: Yeah, I, I, I think maybe the big disconnect, or at least part of the dis big disconnect. It, it, it's, it seems like, as we've talked, there's twofold. Number one, we have a very big misconception, our rose, rose colored glasses about how great things used to be, uh, much better than we, we think that they were much better than they were.

But also it's, it's hard for us to project [00:52:00] forward what innovation and, you know, and technological change is going to bring. But, you know, for me, I live within 15 miles of a landfill and, you know, I, I live close to Washington DC and the beltway around DC is, is, is terrible all the time. Just completely packed with card.

Or you think about things like, you know, the Amazon effect where just boxes upon boxes upon boxes for everyone that's ordering all these different products and services and, um, But I suppose at the same time, you know, you reflect back on, I mean, all of the things that I do digitally now that used to require printing out of paper and exchange of, of paper documents.

I mean, so many things are Well, sure, 

[00:52:45] Marian Tupy: yeah. So, so the, there is, you know, we produce a lot of rubbish, but we also have dematerialized, a lot of stuff. We are also saving all of materials, which are not going to end up in a landfill. This thing here is a [00:53:00] rotary phone or a landline? It's a radio, it's a map, it's a notepad, it's a tv, uh, in, in many different ways.

It's a camera. Of course, very few people actually buy a specific camera and it has all sorts of other gizmos that, you know, it's an alarm clock. Mm-hmm. In fact, it's a clock. Right. I don't, I don't have a watch. And that means that whilst we are still producing a lot of rubbish, We are also dematerializing our, our, our civilization.

And we are saving a lot of, from, from producing a lot of rubbish by going this way. Um, that has a direct impact on resources. For example, 10 years ago when you walked into a hotel room, every hotel room would have this ugly blue cable filled with copper that would come out of the wall and plug into your computer.

Those have disappeared. Now why, because we have wifi. That's just a perfect example of dematerialization, but also [00:54:00] of just going beyond atoms. You are no longer using physical atoms in order to drive the internet signal from the wall to your computer. You are just now using the air. Um, so now, now imagine if you could multiply this by millions of billions of times.

Imagine if so many of the daily activities that we have, uh, were transferred from atoms to bits. Then you can dematerialize a lot of things. Right? Yeah. Imagine if we could come up with new forms of transportation. Maybe instead of going to a meeting, well now you can do it via zoom. Maybe instead of driving a car, you could sit in a hyperloop.

Um, all sorts of things that, that are possible. Yeah. To get around that. To get around that problem. Yeah. And then of course, then, then of course you come to the topic of biosphere. What about the animals? You say you live close to a landfill. Mm-hmm. Uh, which of course is, is a [00:55:00] problem with. You know, a lot of rubbish.

And then, uh, then we have a problem with flora and fauna. 

[00:55:06] Nathan Hurd: Right. So that's actually one thing I wanted to, to mention. There's, there's been a bunch of research that's come out recently, and I'm sure probably many people listening and watching this have seen it, where the suggestion is that this, there's been a species decline of something like 68% since 1970, right?

We've gone, yes. So what, so when we see things like this, or we hear about the rainforest destruction, or y you know, what would you, how do you, how do you think about that? Are, are you concerned about it? And, and if you know why or why not? Yeah. 

[00:55:34] Marian Tupy: Oh yeah. Very much so. Very much so, because I believe that clean, abundant nature is very important to human flourishing, uh, this, this nonsense that we hear all the time about.

You know, you care so much about humanity. You don't care about nature. That, that's nonsense. Uh, living on a clean and beautiful planet filled with animals and, uh, beautiful flowers, that's, that's very much part of. Having a good life. Um, so we need to [00:56:00] do both, right? And, um, and so, so what can we say about that?

Well, first of all, the, the, the, those statistics about 68% species decline and all that, that's just insane. Um, people who, who know this literature, uh, claim that about 0.7, uh, percent of all species of animals is currently threatened with extinction 0.7. And remember that vast majority of species are insects and things like that.

When, when it comes to mammals, The animals that we do care about, the cuddly pandas and whales and, and whatever, and, and polar bears, uh, those, we are pretty good at protecting, uh, because, because, you know, we can prevent their poaching and so on. I mean, part of the reason why the environmentalist movement constantly needs a new mascot is because what we used to associate with, uh, extinction whales have now recovered.

Then it was pandas, but now we have plenty. So now it's the [00:57:00] polar bear. And now even the polar bear numbers are, are rising. So, so the point is that, um, um, so the point is that no, we are not facing a mass extinction. And one way you can get around the problem of mass extinction is of course what's already happening, which is urbanization by 2060.

Um, sorry. By 20, yes. By 2060, something like 60% of all humans will be living in cities. By 2185% of all human beings will be living in cities. Uh, the the most disruptive thing for the biosphere, uh, and for biodiversity is, is human activity, uh, farming, uh, commuting, things like that. But when you have withdrawal of humans from nature, which is what we are in the middle of doing, it's called urbanization, and all of these people end up in cities, then all that nature, which was previously farmed or inhabited by humans, can be turned over to animals and to, and to, um, and to, and to, and to flora.

[00:58:00] Um, and, and nature will recover. Nature is contrary to popular belief. Nature is not this sort of damsel in distress, which is constantly teetering on the point of collapse. Nature is a wonderful way of. Um, of bouncing back if you just leave it alone. Uh, perfect example of that would be the Bikini Atol. In the 1950s, the United States dropped 25 nuclear bombs on the, on the bikini Atol.

Uh, some of them were 1000 times more powerful than the ones that United States dropped on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, uh, the, the Marine Life on the Bikini Idol has completely recovered. Uh, you can just Google it. I'm not lying. Um, uh, Marine life is doing just fine, uh, just as life in general is doing in the Chernobyl area where the animals have recovered.

Not to mention that people have been living in Nagasaki and, uh, uh, uh, and Hiroshima for, for, for, for decades now. Uh, having a [00:59:00] fruitful normal life. So nature can recover if you just leave it alone. 

[00:59:04] Nathan Hurd: Yeah, I, I mean that's, that's certainly true if you look for examples of that, and that's a great example. Um, then you certainly do find them, and there's been many.

You know, well, let me ask you this. I, I think this is one of the, I just feel like this is an instinct that people have. It's certainly something that I have, I've thought about. I can imagine people worrying that embracing abundance too fully might lead to a sense of complacency, right? Like, if we think everything's fine and the, you know, the environment, you know, bounces back and there's no way we could consume too much and, uh, you know, we should just continue on and, and, uh, human innovation will, will, will work things out.

I imagine that people would fear that that could be too, too far. 

[00:59:50] Marian Tupy: Yes. Way into one direction, yes. But yes, but at the same time, if you take the extremism and the apocalypse too far, uh, then, then [01:00:00] oddly enough, you are going to produce. Another set of negative outcomes including, you know, futility and depression and, um, whatever.

I, I think that the best way is to be realistic about these things and tell the truth. Um, the truth is that no oceans are not going to burn up. The truth is that polar bears are not going to die out. But I do think that, uh, there, there is a scope for saying that, uh, a, a good human being, Should care about his or her surroundings.

Yeah. About the state of the planet. I, I think that's fine because as I said, living on a beautiful planet is very much a part of human happiness. If, you know, if you want to be a happy species, we need to be surrounded by nature. Uh, if nothing else, COVID taught us that we wanted to be a part of nature. We wanted to get out of the house, you know, and be able to walk in the woods or swim in the [01:01:00] sea.

Yeah. And so, um, to, to be conscious about the environment, not to throw around trash, uh, not to use energy if you don't have to, um, you know, be, be a conscious, good human being. I, I think that's, I, I think that's, that's a good thing. Uh, we, teaching about these things is important. Um, What I object to is not so much being environmentally conscious, because I think of myself as being environmentally conscious.

What I do care about and what does annoy me is when human beings are starting, when human beings are painted as a cancer on the planet. Mm-hmm. Because that only looks at the negative aspects of human life, rather than also the many positive aspects of human life. Yeah. Um, 

[01:01:46] Nathan Hurd: yeah. Yeah. And as you described earlier, I mean, there's, uh, there are, there are very public figures, celebrities, and, and the like, who have committed to not have children for these, for, for causes that they claim, uh, you know, are related to the [01:02:00] devastation of the planet and so on and so forth.

And so it can lead to these, these really extreme views 

[01:02:06] Marian Tupy: that That's right. And, and I, I think that if you, if you wanna take things to its logical conclusion, of course, is that, um, it's not just. People are having fewer children. But I mean, there is a massive push out there in the media. Uh, you know, they are legitimizing points of view, which are saying that all humans are a problem.

That, that, that the world would be much better without any humans on it. And my point to that would be to the, to the extent that the world matters, it only matters because we are on it. Um, animals don't care about the world. Uh, they care about eating, not being eaten, and occasionally having sex with another animal in order to produce an offspring.

But they don't take in the beauty of the world. They don't care, uh, to the extent, you know, the, the like, like we do. And so if the world matters, it only matters because we are there to perceive it with our, with our senses. [01:03:00] Um, and, and, and therefore this sort of anti-human antenatal list, uh, humans are a cancer on the planet point of view is completely alien to me.

And I think it's very destructive. 

[01:03:12] Nathan Hurd: Well, it's, uh, yeah, it's also devastating to human flourishing and our experience of, you know, the whole title of this podcast is a Rich Life Lab. And I, I think it's, you know, really very hard to appreciate and have a, have a fulfilling life if you have a perspective like that or if we share that perspective so widely.

I, I do, I do have one sort of practical question, which is we have, um, closets full of clothes and we have, you know, gadgets galore and bigger houses and, you know, generally speaking, not everyone, but we have more stuff than we have ever had. And you know, one of the reasons that this whole [01:04:00] concept of rich life became very resonant with me is because early in my career I talked to thousands and thousands of investors and they.

All were pursuing what they believed to be a path to a greater level of fulfillment. And a lot of it had to do with material wealth. And of course, for many who have pursued that path, they realize eventually that there's, there's not a direct connection between that and fulfillment. So how do you think about this whole notion of, I mean, a lot of the abundance, the material resource abundance we have doesn't necessarily translate into happiness or fulfillment.

Um, and should we, should we be thinking more about what is it that's actually gonna create human flourishing, happiness, fulfillment? 

[01:04:46] Marian Tupy: Well, I mean, the, the, the funny thing is that actually the, the argument that money does not lead to. Happiness and satisfaction. Uh, that does not seem to be true. In other [01:05:00] words, uh, recent psychological studies which were trying to revisit, uh, the famous papers of, I think it was Lin from the 1970s.

Um, Lin was the one, I think that that was his name, who found that at, at, at some level of income, sort of happiness and life satisfaction just 

[01:05:18] Nathan Hurd: plateaued. Yeah. Like 75,000 or something like that. Yeah, something like 

[01:05:21] Marian Tupy: that. And, and actually the recent study suggests that happiness, uh, and life satisfaction continues to increase with income.

Um, so that, that, that particular story doesn't seem to be true. Um, but of course I see money, uh, not as an end in itself. I see money as an avenue, uh, or, or as a, as a means of doing the things that give you pleasure. Um, and that give you meaning in life, uh, and that give you happiness to you and your family.

So if you think about a, um, [01:06:00] an Indian laborer in 1960, not, not Indiana laborer, Indian labor in 1960 or Chinese labor in 1960, they would've to work eight hours a day in order to buy one meal for them and their family. Right? That that's all they worked for. Um, today, they can get the same amount of food for an hour of work.

So they're saving seven hours of labor to do something else with it. Yeah. Maybe they can buy textbooks for their children, which will give them happiness and will improve the life chances of their children. Maybe they can buy a motorcycle. Um, so instead of walking their wife, having to walk the, the wife, uh, Sorry, that puts sound very sexy.

But let's assume that in these traditional societies, women do, uh, a lot of the housework like cooking. So instead of having to carry the water on her head or, or on her back [01:07:00] for long distances, maybe she can sit in a car or in a motorbike to, to fetch the water or the food and things like that. So that increases her standard of bleeding, but also her happiness and her ability to do other things with her life.

The point is that, um, you now have more time to either earn more money to buy other things that make you happy or you can have more time to do things, uh, that make you happy, uh, outright, such as. Not working so much because you are wealthy enough or maybe going on a trip or go and walk in the mountains.

Um, I think that money to me certainly is just a way of increasing my choices so that I can do more things that please me and that give me satisfaction, um, rather than, as I said, working the fields for eight hours a day in order to buy one meal. Yeah, I completely agree. [01:08:00] It, it should be a means to something else.

But you see, the thing is that capitalism free markets super abundance. Uh, they're very important and they are imbued with a certain kind of morality and a certain kind of meaning, which is that in a capitalist society, free market society, You can only become extremely wealthy by supplying your fellow men and women with something that they need.

You are doing them a service, providing them with something good or services. And that's one kind of morality. It's, it's a very important moral component of capitalism, but it's not, but that's not what, it's not as sufficient or a, uh, uh, or encompassing, uh, morality. Um, there are other things that go on in life where you have to get your, uh, moral impulses, uh, from other sources.

Maybe it'll be philosophy, maybe it'll be a religion. Um, uh, maybe it'll be just a good wife or husband. [01:09:00] Um, so, so capitalism I don't think has ever pretended that it has an answer to everything. It just provides us with the means to do with our time. Whatever we please, what we do with that time is still up to us.

And sometimes we make right choices and sometimes we make bad choices. Yeah. 

[01:09:27] Nathan Hurd: I, I do, I I, and I, and I really do agree with you that that's from, from my perspective, that's what material abundance financial wealth is, is most useful for is freedom. You know, freedom to experience life more fully and do the things that you would prefer to, to, to be doing.

Um, I do think that there are limitations when we have drawers full of things that we never look at and, you know, storage closets, storage, you know, storage facilities all around the country full of stuff that we, we don't even know what to do with. Um, having [01:10:00] said that, you know, the case you're making is much more expansive and when you look across the global scale, um, you know, material wealth has, 

[01:10:11] Marian Tupy: but what, what's keeping people who have so much stuff from giving it away?

For example. Um, nothing really. I mean, there are plenty of people, there are plenty of people who declutter their lives every fire. Right? That's true. Yeah. That's, um, uh, you know, 

[01:10:27] Nathan Hurd: so, uh, I think it's a narrative. You know, there's a, there's a, there is a narrative about, you know, scarcity and about, uh, I mean, there's no question that the image that is portrayed in popular culture in the United States has a lot to do with, you know, success being, having lots, you know, bigger and more resources, at least in, in some people's eyes.

[01:10:53] Marian Tupy: I mean, in the old days, let's say 20 or 30 years ago, it was common for people to take all of their old clothes and send [01:11:00] 'em to Africa, uh, to, you know, secondhand clothing. Mm-hmm. But as we found in our book, that's no longer happening, uh, people in Africa are now so prosperous, uh, relatively speaking, of course, that they no longer partake in secondhand clothing.

They want fashionable clothes too, you know, so, uh, so there you go. Uh, consumption. Yeah. Another thing we found in the book is that, uh, obesity is now a rising problem in Africa, um, rather than starvation. Who would've thought that 20 or 30 years ago? And if that's, that's, that's the poorest people in the world, and they are doing, they're doing much better than they used to.

[01:11:39] Nathan Hurd: So what do you think are the greatest risks to future abundance to abundance? Continuing at this pace and our ability to live sustainably in a, in, you know, an equilibrium at some level with the, with the planet. Uh, what are the greatest risks against that? Continuing [01:12:00] 

[01:12:00] Marian Tupy: along? Well, uh, let's take the biosphere and nature.

Um, let's put it on the side for a moment. I mean, when it comes to abundance, just being able to, um, enjoy access to more resources. I think that we have to have, we have to preserve free speech because, uh, being able to think freely, speak freely. Research freely, exchange ideas freely, associate freely, then invest and profit, um, you know, basic freedoms.

Um, that, that's incredibly important in terms of generating new knowledge. If we don't have free speech, we cannot have new knowledge, therefore we cannot have technological progress. Mm-hmm. Um, the other thing is that hopefully we are not going to see a population collapse, uh, that something will change.

Not all is lost. Uh, Israel, which is a very wealthy country, um, has an expanding population [01:13:00] rather than declining population. So hopefully, you know, we, we are not going to have a population collapse because if we do, then we are going to have fewer ideas. What 

[01:13:07] Nathan Hurd: about China? I mean, China has, uh, China has got some demographic issues, it sounds like.


[01:13:12] Marian Tupy: self-inflicted, of course. Mm-hmm. Uh, communist dictatorship, uh, one child policy and all that. Um, the freedom of the market is very important because, um, Because, uh, um, only the market can decide which ideas are good and which ideas are bad. So, um, you know, so again, we need humans to have ideas. We have, we need freedom to express those ideas, and we need free markets to sort out the bad ideas from the good ideas.

So that's, those are just some aspects of, uh, of supervisors. Now, when it comes to, uh, nature, what, what you called living in equilibrium with nature, which, which I think is actually a pretty good way of, of thinking about it, is that we don't want to be too harsh on nature, but at the same time, [01:14:00] we don't want to be too harsh on human beings.

We want to find sort of a happy medium. I agree. Um, I, I, I, I think that, um, I think that, um, as I said, I think that we are doing a pretty good job in terms of, um, uh, in terms of urbanization, which is very important, getting off the land. Increasing agricultural productivity is incredibly important. If the global farmer, if, if the average farmer in the world was as productive as the American farmer, we would be able to feed everybody on the planet and return the land size the size of India back to nature.

That gives you a sense of how much more productivity we could get, um, taking care of the species. So when we isolate, uh, or when we, when we identify species that really seem to be declining in numbers and we are very good at that nowadays, uh, then put into practice, uh, measures so that we can stabilize those population and hopefully expand them.

And of course, rich people are also [01:15:00] people who are able to, um, and also will live in a world which has a record number of nature reserves and land and ocean areas protected from human exploration and exploitation. So we can, if we become much more agriculturally productive. We can increase dramatically the amount of land and, and the amount of and, and, and the, and the sea that we can sort of live to the animals.

We no longer have to be there. We don't need it, right? Mm-hmm. We don't need the fish if we can grow fish on fish farms. Mm-hmm. Right? So that's one way of getting around the, that that's one way of achieving that equilibrium. Mm-hmm. 

[01:15:47] Nathan Hurd: Yeah. Food, I mean, food is, is obviously a, a, a huge part of this. You know, a lot of the rainforest, you know, that you hear about, at least has to do with, with farming.


[01:15:57] Marian Tupy: yes. And, but, but again, let's keep things in [01:16:00] perspective. It is true that we have a problem with rainforest deforestation in Latin America, especially Brazil and the Amazon. But forests are growing other parts of the world, uh, Europe, and uh, North America have added 35% of new forests, uh, in the last 20 to 25 years.

That, that's remarkable. We have more forests now in some parts of the world than we had even prior to the Industrial Revolution. Um, so, um, really, so we are doing a very good job in terms of protecting the environment, expanding the amount of land, uh, that is protected. 

[01:16:39] Nathan Hurd: Well, I, I, I think that, you know, I mean it seems like, like, uh, like most things, it's not, it's not either of the extremes.

There is a very important and realistic real middle ground, and you've laid out a very extensive argument for that in this book, which is, is really a breath of [01:17:00] fresh air, honestly. How do you think about, and maybe we can kind of wind things down with this. How do you think about, um, You know, we started with what, what brought you to this work initially?

What are you hoping people take from the book and from the work that you've recently put out? 

[01:17:18] Marian Tupy: That we are creators as well as consumers. That we are not just a plague up on the planet, the cancer upon the planet as the anti-human and antinatalists are talking about, but, but that we are also a source of beauty, a source of new knowledge, um, a source of a source of solutions.

What I'm selling is not optimism, blind optimism. What I'm selling is solutionism. We've been able to solve extraordinary things over the last 200 years. We were able to extinguish entire diseases like smallpox. We are on the verge of eradicating polio. Uh, we were able to find a vaccine, uh, for, for C O V D in, in, in one [01:18:00] year.

Um, it has its problems, but, uh, but you know, it, it was an extraordinary effort. So the point is that we can solve problems as they arise. And, um, um, uh, and, and, and, and why should it be? That given the problems that we have resolved in the past, we cannot repeat the same in the future. Uh, that there are reasons for rational optimism because we are problem solvers and we are pretty good at that.

Um, and, and so I think that in the future we should be able to, we should be able to do the same. I, I think that's the point. Human beings are problem solvers and, um, whatever is coming down the pipeline, um, it's better to have more people thinking about it, exchanging ideas, um, to tackle those problems in the future.

[01:18:54] Nathan Hurd: Yeah. Do, do you think, um, one kind of final question. Do you think that fear, [01:19:00] do you think that, um, optimism for the future, a sense of possibility for the future is a better motivat? For change and solutions and innovation, then fear. I mean, fear is obviously a motivator. Um, and there's a lot of fear being used as a form of motivation for change.

Yeah. But did, did, did anything in your research or from your perspective, did did it show that one's better than the other? 

[01:19:31] Marian Tupy: I haven't come across that, uh, so this is a perfect opportunity for me to say I don't know, because I haven't had that opportunity in our podcast yet. But I, uh, there is certainly, there are certainly plenty of people who seem to be naturally optimistic, who come up with solutions to problems.

I mean, just look at somebody like Elon Musk. He just seems to be bubbling with optimism and ideas. But I do not know what is a better driver of, uh, of progress, whether it is fear of the future or, or optimism. Um, [01:20:00] if somebody knows the answer, knows of the relevant studies, please send 'em my way. Yeah. 

[01:20:05] Nathan Hurd: Yeah.

Well, I mean, if you take it in a smaller example, I would say that many businesses are created because there's an optimism for a better solution. There's many smaller examples that seem to be almost certainly true in this case. And, you know, for anyone listening, certainly for me in my own life, I have always found that it's far easier to build and create momentum on, based on success and belief for a better tomorrow than it is for, you know, fear of, uh, fear of anything really.

So, um, it's been such a pleasure. Uh, Marian, where can people find out more about you and, and your. 

[01:20:46] Marian Tupy: Well, thank you. Um, the book, as you said, is super bundles, the story of population growth, innovation, and human flourishing on an infinitely banted planet. It can be gotten at Amazon or Walmart or anywhere. It has its own website [01:21:00] called

And of course, I'm a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, so it's cato org, c ato org. Uh, you can find me there. I also run a website called human So get in touch, let me know where I was wrong, um, or supply me with more examples of optimism that I'll be able to use, or solutionism I should say, that I'll be able to use in the future.

Thank you. 

[01:21:26] Nathan Hurd: Thank you so much. And for anyone listening, uh, the book is a must read. It's absolutely filled. I think that's a great starting piece for anyone that has, uh, interest and or questions about anything that we've talked about today. The book is absolutely filled with, uh, data and trends and history, um, and it's a great place to start.

So thank you so much. It's been a real pleasure. Thanks for checking out this video. Make sure you hit subscribe. I'm Nathan Herd, also known as the Rich Life Guy. You can follow me at the Rich Life Guy. Also, check out Rich [01:22:00] Life Lab, which is the podcast available everywhere, and leave a comment and let me know if this video landed for you or what else you'd like to hear from me in the future.

Thank you so much.