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Cornucopianism is the idea that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by similarly continued advances in technology. It relies on the belief that there is enough matter and energy on the Earth to provide for the population of the world, appears adequate to give humanity almost unlimited room for growth.[clarification needed]

The term comes from the cornucopia, the "horn of plenty" of Greek mythology, which magically supplied its owners with endless food and drinks. Adherents are called "cornucopians" or sometimes "boomsters", in contrast to doomers, whose views are more aligned with Malthusianism."[1]


"When civilization [population] increases, the available labor again increases. In turn, luxury again increases in correspondence with the increasing profit, and the customs and needs of luxury increase. Crafts are created to obtain luxury products. The value realized from them increases, and, as a result, profits are again multiplied in them. Production there is thriving even more than before. And so it goes with the second and third increase. All the additional labor serves luxury and wealth, in contrast to the original labor that served the necessity of life." — Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), from Muqaddimah[2]

As a society becomes more wealthy, it also creates a well-developed set of legal rules to produce the conditions of freedom and security that progress requires.[citation needed]

In Progress and Poverty written in 1879, after describing the powerful reproductive forces of nature, the political economist Henry George wrote, "That the earth could maintain a thousand billions of people as easily as a thousand millions is a necessary deduction from the manifest truths that, at least so far as our agency is concerned, matter is eternal and force must forever continue to act."[3]

Description by an opposing view[edit]

Stereotypically, a cornucopian is someone who posits that there are few intractable natural limits to growth and believes the world can provide a practically limitless abundance of natural resources. The label 'cornucopian' is rarely self-applied, and is most commonly used derogatorily by those who believe that the target is overly optimistic about the resources that will be available in the future.[citation needed]

One common example of this labeling is by those who are skeptical of the view that technology can solve, or overcome, the problem of an exponentially-increasing human population[4] living off a finite base of natural resources. Cornucopians might counter that human population growth has slowed dramatically, and not only is currently growing at a linear rate,[5] but is projected to peak and start declining in the second half of the 21st century.[6] However, more recent projections have the global population rising to 11 billion by 2100 with continued growth into the next century.[7] Furthermore, it always has in the past, even when population was increasing at a far faster rate.[citation needed]


Lindsey Grant accuses cornucopians, especially Julian Simon and Herman Kahn, of making arguments with logical flaws, omissions and oversights and of making assumptions and choosing methodologies that ignore or dismiss the most critical issues.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tierney, BY John (December 2, 1990). "Betting on the Planet". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah, 2:272-73, quoted in Weiss, Dieter (1995). "Ibn Khaldun on Economic Transformation". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 27 (1): 29–37. doi:10.1017/S0020743800061560. JSTOR 176185. [30].
  3. ^ George, Henry (1898). Progress and Poverty, Volumes I and IIAn Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth.[page needed]
  4. ^ "Population Growth over Human History". University of Michigan. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011.
  5. ^ "International Data Base (IDB): Total Midyear Population for the World: 1950–2050". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on October 17, 2007.
  6. ^ World population to 2300 United Nations; Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2004
  7. ^ Gerland, Patrick; Raftery, Adrian E.; Ševčíková, Hana; Li, Nan; Gu, Danan; Spoorenberg, Thomas; Alkema, Leontine; Fosdick, Bailey K.; Chunn, Jennifer; Lalic, Nevena; Bay, Guiomar; Buettner, Thomas; Heilig, Gerhard K.; Wilmoth, John (October 10, 2014). "World population stabilization unlikely this century". Science. 346 (6206): 234–237. Bibcode:2014Sci...346..234G. doi:10.1126/science.1257469. PMC 4230924. PMID 25301627.
  8. ^ The Cornucopian Fallacies. TEF Reports. by Lindsey Grant

Further reading[edit]