There’s a great op-ed in the NYT today making the argument that, however much Malthus and his heirs have fallen out of favor, they may have the last laugh. Limits are back, baby!

Here are two memes I’m happy to see getting out into the mainstream:

  1. In the words of a recent interviewee (watch for it tomorrow): Coal is the enemy of the human race.
  2. This, from the last paragraph:
    … we really need to start thinking hard about how our societies — especially those that are already very rich — can maintain their social and political stability, and satisfy the aspirations of their citizens, when we can no longer count on endless economic growth.

    Yup.

And speaking of happiness without economic growth, I’m in the midst of reading “The Role of Well-Being in the Great Transition” (PDF), part of this series of papers on the Great Transition recommended by Deborah in comments.

It starts off strong, with some interesting discussion of the components of well-being and how they track with increasing wealth (short version: initially well-being rises sharply with wealth, and then past a certain line additional wealth has little or no effect). Good empirical research and such.

Then, toward the middle, it veers off the tracks into some sort of bizarre hippie socialist vision of future communities in which capitalism, having secured enough wealth to make everyone rich, is jettisoned in favor of love and community and overweening regulation of every aspect of life, but not forced or violent regulation — oh no! — because everyone would meet in their loving communities and welcome these regulations with open arms. Oy. It’s like Ecotopia, but … well, it’s just like Ecotopia.

Maybe the last third will pull it out. I’ll report back.