Acton Institute Research Fellow and Executive Editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality Jordan J. Ballor was a guest on Austin Hill in the Morning in late January on the Faith Radio Network to discuss the morality of resource extraction and use. Should Christians support efforts to drill for more oil and the use of new techniques to draw more of these resources from the Earth, or should they push for a new approach to energy creation and consumption? You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.
That’s the intriguing question Ramez Naam asks in his new book, The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet. As Ronald Bailey says in a review of the book,
In this thought experiment, you don’t get to pick which people are never born. Perhaps there would have been no Newton, Edison, or Pasteur, no Socrates, Shakespeare, or Jefferson. “Each additional idea is a gift to the future,” Naam writes. “Each additional idea producer is a source of wealth for future generations.” Fewer people means fewer new ideas about how to improve humanity’s lot.
Earlier this week, I wrote that human resources are not only the most valuable natural resource, they are the only real natural resources on the Earth. To this I would add that the individual human is the only unique resource on the planet. A barrel of oil or a pound of gold is much like any other barrel of oil or pound of gold. But a human has a unique combination of God-given gifts, skills, talents and experience that make them unique as a producer of ideas and innovation.
If the acquisition of oil, gold, or any other “natural resources” were to slow to a crawl, humanity could survive. But we can’t flourish as a species unless we continue to create the most important resource of all: babies.
describes estimates of wealth and its components for nearly 120 countries. The book has four sections. The first part introduces the wealth estimates and highlights the level and composition of wealth across countries. The second part analyzes changes in wealth and their implications for economic policy. The third part deepens the analysis by considering the importance of human and institutional capital, and by linking wealth to production. The fourth part reviews existing applications of resource and environmental accounting in developed and developing countries.
Also out recently is an index of the most globalized nations by Foreign Policy (HT: International Civic Engagement). The top ten, based on 2005 data, which claims to “measure countries on their economic, personal, technological, and political integration”:
- Singapore (252,607)
- Hong Kong (NR)
- Netherlands (421,389)
- Switzerland (648,241)
- Ireland (330,490)
- Denmark (575,138)
- United States (512,612)
- Canada (324,979)
- Jordan (31,546)
- Estonia (66,769)
In parenthesis after the name of the country in the top ten, I’ve placed the total wealth estimate for the year 2000 from the World Bank report (appendix 2 PDF).
Look at Estonia, for example. Even though its total wealth score is much smaller relative to other nations on the globalization list, the majority of its wealth score (41,802) in the World Bank report is garnered from “intangible capital,” which refers to, as the From the Heartland blogger put it, “the value of the nation’s economic and political institutions,” such as the rule of law. And now compare Estonia with the Republic of Congo, which has almost the same ratings in terms of tangible capital as Estonia, but whose -12,158 intangible capital rating keeps its total wealth score disturbingly low (3,516).
Clearly it isn’t the case that countries that only have rich natural resources have something to offer the international marketplace. Strong and responsible economic and political institutions can foster intellectual creativity, technological innovation, and social capital that more than makes up for deficits in natural resources.
The core of the story revolves around this assertion made by the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program and a number of other mainline projects: Drinking bottled water is a sin.
Cassandra Carmichael, director of eco-justice programs for the National Council of Churches, bases this claim on the assumption that bottling water by definition deprives access to a natural resource basic to human existence.
“The moral call for us is not to privatize water,” Carmichael said. “Water should be free for all.”
According to the RNS piece, “Rebecca Barnes-Davies, coordinator of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, said bottled water companies encourage a culture in the U.S. that is comfortable with privatizing a basic human right.”
“As people of faith, we don’t and shouldn’t pretend to have ownership of any resource — it’s God’s,” she said. “We have to be the best steward we can be of all those resources.”
The foundational document for the NCC’s campaign is “WATER: THE KEY TO SUSTAINING LIFE: AN OPEN STATEMENT TO GOVERNING BODIES AND CONCERNED CITIZENS,” which presents the following false dilemma, “Water should be viewed as a gift from God for all people, not a commodity that can be traded for profit.”
The problem is that “Access to fresh water supplies is becoming an urgent matter of life and death across the planet and especially for the 1.2 billion people who are currently suffering from a lack of adequate water and sanitation.”
The lack of access to water in many developing nations is a real and serious problem (more on that here). The exploitation of this real problem by the NCC, however, is indefensible. (more…)