… 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.