Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on July 13, 2011

in Complexity & Emergence, Environment, Growth, History, Innovation, Myths and Fallacies, Technology

… is another from the superb economic historian Gavin Wright.  This one is from page 10 of his paper “The Myth of the Resource Curse” (co-authored with Jesse Czelusta) in the March/April 2004 issue of Challenge:

There is good reason to reject the notion that American industrialization should be somehow discounted because it emerged from a setting of unique resource abundance: On closer examination, the abundance of American mineral resources should not be seen as merely a fortunate natural endowment. It is more appropriately understood as a form of collective learning, a return on large-scale investments in exploration, transportation, geological knowledge, and the technologies of mineral extraction, refining, and utilization.

Wright and Czelusta here make the Julian-Simonesque point – and back it up with data from the empirical record – that the size of resource ‘endowments’ is variable and, more importantly, largely a function of human ingenuity.  Human beings – and not molecules buried in the ground – are the ultimate resource.  The latter become resources only through the creativity, choices, and actions of the former.


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