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Wager between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich

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(Redirected from Ehrlich-Simon bet)

Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich entered in a famous wager in 1980, betting on a mutually agreed upon measure of resource scarcity over the decade leading up to 1990.

Simon had Ehrlich choose five of several commodity metals. Ehrlich chose 5 metals: copper, chrome, nickel, tin, and tungsten. Simon bet that their prices would go down. Ehrlich bet they would go up.

Julian Simon won handily and, per the terms of the wager, Ehrlich paid Simon the difference in price between the same quantity of metals in 1980 and 1990 (which was $576.07).

Simon offered to raise the wager to $20,000 and use any resources at any time that Ehrlich preferred, but the two were unable to reach an agreement on the terms of a second wager.

Simon later made a bet with David South on the price of pine sawtimber over the period 1996 to 2001. In March 1997, Simon withdraw from the bet and paid South $1000 claiming possible government intervention. Had the bet been carried to conclusion, Simon would have owed South $341.

Jared Diamond claims (Collapse) that 'Simon believed “Copper can be made from other elements” and thus there is no risk of a copper shortage', perhaps explaining his confidence in the bet. Diamond claims the notion is absurd, since copper is itself an element and thus cannot be made from other elements, by definition.

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