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Why do people have more resources when there are more of them?

Here’s an interview I did with the `Five Book’s’
website in which I selected five books on techno-optimism:

Julian Simon’s The Ultimate Resource 2

Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist

Huber and Mills’s The Bottomless Well

Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants

Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline

The key question they all raise is why people find more
resources, more food, more energy and more time when there are more
of them. The Malthusian argument would say that we should be
running out of all these things and getting poorer. Instead of
which, the more there are of us, the richer we get. Of course, we
might run out eventually, but not if population stabilises and
technology continues to advance.

Or as Brendan O’Neill put it in Spiked:

On the first point, Malthusians are simply
wrong to say that resources are fixed, that we can measure and
predict when they will run out. It seems commonsensical to say that
the Earth is finite, and a bit mad to say that it isn’t, but it’s
important to recognise how fluid and changeable resources are. It’s
important to recognise that the usefulness and longevity of a
resource is determined as much by us – by the level of social
development we have reached – as it is by the existence of that
resource in the first place.

Resources are not fixed in any meaningful
sense. Resources have a history and a future, just as human beings
do. The question of what we consider to be a resource changes as
society changes.


By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  rational-optimist