A Life against the Grain
The Autobiography of an Unconventional Economist
In his long and distinguished career as a writer and scholar Julian Simon came to be known as one of the leading—and most controversial—authorities on population economics. An immensely productive writer, his work is unified by a basic core belief: that human intellect and ingenuity are ever-renewable resources in the use and preservation of natural resources. Inevitably, Simon's position provoked the hostility of doctrinaire environmentalists, both in academia and in the movement at large. However, Simon's arguments were invariably built from facts and powerful evidence that stood him well in many high-profile public debates.
The first part of Simon's autobiography takes the reader through his childhood, his years as a midshipman and then as an officer in the Navy, plus a stint in the Marines, and his experiences as a copywriter in an advertising firm. Simon's plan after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago was to be an entrepreneur, which would afford him enough money to care for his parents and allow him free time for writing fiction. He ran a small mail-order business for two years, during which time he wrote his first book, How to Start and Operate a Mailorder Business, which has since gone through seven editions. Deciding to seek a professional career, in 1963, he accepted a position at the University of Illinois.
Although he spent thirty-five years of his life as a faculty member at three universities, his autobiography contains almost no discussion of departmental affairs or university politics, topics about which Simon had little or no interest. Rather, after the personal chronology and experiences, the book includes substantive chapters on research methods, population economics, and immigration. It also explains how Julian Simon became the economist he was. He analyzes crucial periods in his life when he developed his ideas on fundamental issues.
Written in an engaging and amusing manner, Julian Simon's autobiography is a combination of personal memoir and professional contribution to important ideas in economics, research methods, and demography. His observations and personal reflections will interest the general reader on a humanitarian level as well as environmentalists, sociologists, and economists on a professional level.
"Julian Simon left an indelible imprint on the making of economic policy in America...In his autobiography, Simon describes the trials he faced in gaining wide currency for ideas that were once considered heresy."
—Jim Heins, University of Illinois
"This autobiography seeks not only to recount a life story—through childhood, college, the Navy, the advertising business, graduate school, the mail-order business, and an academic career as a 'freelance prospector' in numerous fields—but to provide insights into Simon's 'quirky' personality and way of thinking...Recommended for public and academic library collections, lower-division undergradute through professional."
"...these pages succeed in capturing and presenting the essence of the man: The persona that shines through in them is unmistakably Simon's own en-gaging, thoughtful, often light-hearted, always unflinchingly honest self."
—Nicholas Eberstadt, Washington Times