1st Edition

A Life against the Grain The Autobiography of an Unconventional Economist

By Julian Simon Copyright 2002

    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.

    1. Newark, New Jersey: 1932-1937, 2. Newark, 1937-1941: Old Enough for School, 3. The Family I Come From, 4. Millbum I: Until High School, 1941-1945, 5. Millbum II: Until High School, 1941-1945, 6. High School Years in Millbum, 7. My Mind as a Young Person, 8. On the Job as a Kid, 9. College, 10. College Summers and Midshipman Cruises, 11. In the Fleet, 12. Troopin’ and Stompin’ with the Girenes, 13. Working in the Advertising Business,14. Chicago and the University of Chicago: I , 15. The University of Chicago: II, 16. In and Out of the Mail-Order Business, 17. Urbana and the University of Illinois I: Starting 1963, 18. Teaching at the University, 19. Research 1963-1967: Advertising Economics, Research Methods, and Other Topics, 20. Research on Population Economics, 21. Reaching the Public with Facts about Population and Resources 22. Philosophical Analyses of Basic Conceptual Issues: Causality, 23. The Joy of Studying Immigration, 24. The Airline Oversales Auction System, 25. My Depression and the Theory of Negative Self- Comparisons: The Story, 26. Why do so Few Nonreligious (and Religious) People Enjoy a Sabbath? 27. How did My Economics Get to be What It Is?, 28. This I Believe: Values and Attitudes.


    Julian L. Simon