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The Simon-Ehrlich Bet: Teaching Relative Vs. Absolute Scarcity

John E. Wagner and David H. Newman

The American Economist, 2013, vol. 58, issue 1, 16-26

Abstract: Absolute resource scarcity is all too real for many students, especially those from noneconomic disciplines. They have a Malthusian economic worldview. We describe a pedagogical model using “The Bet†between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon as its focus. The model includes a “Bet†– the students taking the Ehrlich position; a directed discussion providing students with an approach to determine who wins the Bet; and a written assignment, oral presentations, and reflection. The learning outcomes are: 1) students examine their Malthusian beliefs through developing hypotheses, analyzing and testing them, and writing and presenting their conclusions orally; 2) that market's incorporate changes in substitutes, technology, recycling, and discovery; 3) that market prices rise and fall in the short term but it is the long term that illustrates how markets respond to changes in information; and 4) students reflect critically on their initial absolute scarcity assertion.

Keywords: Absolute Scarcity; Relative Scarcity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013
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DOI: 10.1177/056943451305800103

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