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Tom Dennis

Editor's note: Simon says – Julian Simon, that is

“Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist,” wrote John Maynard Keynes. Well, I wouldn’t call myself a slave, nor would I refer to my favorite economist as being defunct.

But I’m happy to profess my admiration for him. He’s Julian Simon, the late professor of business administration at the University of Maryland. And I’m impressed by his thinking because time and again, he has been proven right.

Simon, “The Doomslayer,” said that efforts to predict humanity’s demise almost always fail to account for “the ultimate resource,” namely human ingenuity. We keep being faced with exceptional problems – and we keep solving them, he noticed.

That trend likely will continue, for reasons Simon spelled out.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen two seemingly intractable problems yield to Simon’s dynamics. The first was crime in New York City. In 1990, New York saw 2,245 killings, and to countless residents, the city seemed beyond hope.

In contrast, New York experienced only 290 homicides in 2017, the lowest number in almost 70 years. ‘Nuff said.

Of course, here on the High Plains, we’re living through a miracle of problem-solving all our own. Who would have guessed when the Poppers proposed letting the region devolve into a vast Buffalo Commons, that North Dakota before long would be America’s fastest-growing state?

As unexpected was the extraordinary improvement in the fortunes of our mid-sized cities; and in this issue, we talk with Fargo’s civic and business leaders about just that. The improvement didn’t have to happen; Fargo could have declined. But its leaders used their ingenuity to make smart decisions, and in so doing, they proved Simon right again.

Good reading,

Tom Dennis