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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 187 of the late Wilfred Beckerman’s great and ahead-of-its-time 1974 book, Two Cheers for the Affluent Society:

Resources cannot be usefully measured just in terms of physical amounts of certain minerals that may exist at any moment of time. That is a fundamentally misleading way of looking at them. There are many physical elements in the world which are of absolutely no use at all given present costs of exploration and utilization, present techniques for using them, and the present demand for the products in which they might conceivably be used. But tomorrow all these things may change. What is a “resource” depends on the economic conditions determining the usefulness of the materials in question.

DBx: Indeed. This Julian Simon-esque point is important and vastly under-appreciated. The black molecular mash-up pictured here is not “naturally” a resource. It became a resource only because of human creativity and economic opportunity.


I read Beckerman’s Two Cheers as a junior or senior in college. Perusing it this morning reminds me of what I’ve forgotten: Encountering this book had a very large effect on my view of the world.

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