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“Sustainability” is an increasingly popular term used to signal one’s virtue in contemporary public discourse, but it is a poor basis for sound public policy. It conveys a biologist’s view of the economy without any of the prudence that economists favor.

The biologist Paul R. Ehrlich gave exceptionally imprudent advice in his 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” in which he suggested that humanity was heading for acute resource scarcities and mass starvation. What happened instead is that world income kept rising, as it had been doing for two centuries, and as it shows every sign of continuing to do. Pessimism has been a poor predictor.

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