Posted by: CJ | May 16, 2010

Must be something in the water.

In the past few days I’ve seen a number of surprisingly pessimistic posts from popular bloggers. Note that I already see plenty of pessimistic posts from people like Robin Hanson (who thinks that modern medical practice is as much theatre as science), Arnold Kling (who is always grumpy, especially about education), and Brad DeLong (who is convinced the government has spent too little on stimulus). But the following posts were surprising and from unexpected sources.

  • Mother Jones has a big piece on over-population. This topic has been rather stigmatized because many people, especially progressives, thought in the 60’s and 70’s that over-population would be a huge issue. And then it apparently wasn’t, thanks to better technology mostly. (Economists love to talk about the Green Revolution, a massive shift in farming practices in India.) But it seems that might have merely delayed the problem.
  • Kevin Drum has a post on energy problems. Specifically on a projected gap between liquid fuel supply and demand. This is different from peak oil (also scary) because it just means that supply is outpacing demand. Which would mean energy would have to get more expensive, somehow.
  • Tyler Cowen links to an article pessimistic about the future global food supply. Cowen, of course, has some critiques of the piece, but seems to also agree that there are at least potentially major problems.
  • Slashdot has a blurb (with many comments) asking if too many people go to (four-year) colleges. This is a valid question. On the other hand, having seen the unemployment statistics of people with no high school diploma (~15%)vs. a high school diploma (~10%) vs. a college degree (~5%) during this recession, I think it’d be REALLY hard to convince any particular person that they shouldn’t have a college degree. They might be underemployed, but they are employed.

Those all seem like surprisingly pessimistic things to be talking about. Especially from several different sources and around the same time.

Of course, I’m also more sensitive to it because they touch on my most absurd belief and one of my lesser (deeply held) absurd beliefs. Because, you know, I think it’s important to point out I thought the world was doomed before it was cool.

(Though it’s still not that cool yet, based on the commenters on those posts.)


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