Julian L. Simon (1932-1998) was a free-market economist and business professor known for his optimism about the future of mankind. His groundbreaking research built the case for how human ingenuity would allow the environment to support the world’s increasing population over the long-term, demonstrating human beings are an asset to the planet, not a liability.

Simon authored the 1981 classic, The Ultimate Resource, which debunked eco-doomsayers’ predictions that modern civilization is unsustainable. Over the years, he argued that humans are living longer, that people are better fed and healthier, that resources are becoming ever more abundant, and that environmental quality is improving.

About the Award:

To honor Simon’s achievements, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) established the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award in 2001. The recipient of the prize is an individual whose work continues to promote the vision of man as the ultimate resource.

The award is forged in the shape of a leaf. Simon admired nature and included dried leaves — which die every fall and are renewed every spring — in his correspondence. The veins of the leaf are chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. The five metals featured in a famous 1980 bet with environmentalist Paul Ehrlich. Based on his positive theory about natural resources, Simon bet Ehrlich the price of the metals would decline over a decade even if the world’s population grew. Ten years later, Julian Simon won the bet.

The award is presented at the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Julian L. Simon Memorial Award Honorees:

2023 – Gale L. Pooley, associate professor at Brigham Young University-Hawaii and Marian L. Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, coauthors of Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet.

2022 – Balaji S. Srinivasan – Angel investor, tech founder, and author of the new book The Network State: How To Start a New Country.

2021 – William Easterly – Professor of Economics at New York University and Co-Director of the NYU Development Research Initiative

2020 – Steven Horwitz – Director of the Institute for the Study of Political Economy and Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise at Ball State University

2019 – Johan Norberg – Swedish author, lecturer, documentary filmmaker, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and the European Centre for International Political Economy ​

2018 – Hernando de Soto – Economist, author, humanitarian and founder and president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy

2017 – Pierre Desrochers – Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Toronto

2016 – Bruce Yandle – Dean Emeritus of Clemson University’s College of Business and Behavioral Science and distinguished Mercatus Center adjunct professor of economics at George Mason University

2015 – Vernon L. Smith – “father” of experimental economics, 2002 Nobel Laureate, George L. Argyros Endowed Chair in Finance and Economics at Chapman University, and co-founder of Chapman’s Economic Science Institute

2014 – John Tierney – journalist, science writer and co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength 

2013 – Deirdre McCloskey – Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication Emerita at University of Illinois at Chicago

2012 – Matt Ridley – author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

2011 – Robert J. Smith – former director of CEI’s Center for Private Conservation

2010 – Ross McKitrick and Stephen McIntyre* – McIntyre is the founder and editor of Climate Audit and McKitrick is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada

2009 – Richard Tren – Founder of Africa Fighting Malaria

2008 – Václav Klaus – Czech economist and President of the Czech Republic from 2003-2013

2007 – Indur Goklany – author of The Improving State of the World

2006 – John Stossel – veteran news anchor and host of “Stossel” on the Fox Business Network

2005 – Barun Mitra – director of the Liberty Institute in New Delhi, India

2004 – There was no Simon award given. Instead, CEI honored Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug with our first Prometheus Award for Human Achievement.

2003 – Bjørn Lomborg – director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center

2002 – Robert L. Bradley, Jr. – CEO and founder of the Institute for Energy Research

2001 – Stephen Moore – Wall Street Journal editorial board member and former research fellow for Dr. Julian Simon from 1982-1985