By George! Will on Russ Roberts

by Don Boudreaux on June 13, 2004

in The Economy

In his column in today’s Washington Post, George Will effectively uses a mental experiment devised by Café Hayek’s (and George Mason University’s) Russell Roberts to explain why the world will never run out of oil.

Here’s the relevant quotation from Will’s column:

However, the rate of discovery [of crude-oil deposits] has been declining for several decades. Of course, oil supplies are, as some people say with a sense of profound discovery, “finite.” But that distinguishes oil not at all from land, water or pistachio nuts.

Russell Roberts, an economist, says: Imagine that you love pistachio nuts and are given a room filled 5 feet deep with them. But you must eat them in the room and must leave the shells. When will you have eaten them all? Never. Because as it becomes increasingly difficult to find nuts amidst the shells, the cost of the nuts, in time and effort, will become too high. You will seek a substitute — pistachios from a store, or another snack.

This mental experiment appears in Russ’s book The Invisible Heart. Here’s the chapter that uses the pistachio example.

This is at least the second time that Will mentioned Russ’s work in his column. The first mention was in Will’s column of April 15, 2001.


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