Anne Koeller responds to my earlier e-mail with this objection:
Your [Boudreaux’s] air example doesn’t apply because it takes no work to fill bottles with air but strenuous work is required to perform as first responders.
Ms. Koeller’s objection misses the point. Indeed, the very fact that it takes no work on the surface of the earth to fill bottles with breathable air supports rather than undermines my point. Still, to clarify, let me amend the example marginally:
Jones, noting that breathable air is of enormous total value to humanity, works very hard to discover a sealed pocket of breathable air buried far beneath the earth’s surface. The air in this underground pocket has been sealed there for millions of years. The pocket is discovered only because of Jones’s intrepid efforts. And Jones must toil many hours in hard, dirty, and dangerous conditions in order to fill on each underground expedition just a few dozen bottles with air from this pocket, which he then struggles hard to carry back to the surface for sale. Jones increases the supply of breathable air on the earth’s surface by emerging each week from the bowels of the earth with a couple dozen bottles of fresh, breathable air that he extracted from this underground pocket.
How much will Jones fetch for each of these bottles of air? Despite his undoubted hard work and excellent intentions, the answer is $0.00 – for the reason explained in my previous post.