Posts tagged with: Resource

babiesWould your life be better off if only half as many people had lived before you?

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.

oil-field-workerIf the PowerBlog has a favorite atheist libertarian economist, it’s probably George Mason professor Don Boudreaux. Although he isn’t a believer, he sometimes stumbles upon what I would consider to be Christian insights. Consider, for instance, his take on the term “natural resources”:

In nearly all contexts, words and phrases inevitably convey not only information (such as, as Deirdre would say, “telephone numbers”), but also ideas – notions – interpretations – perspectives – biases – prejudices – spins -approval or disapproval – informal theories – attitudes and judgments – unconscious conclusions. And much of all this that is conveyed by our words and phrases goes unnoticed. This fact is neither good nor bad; it’s simply part of the human condition.

Take the term “natural resources” … This phrase suggests that some things of value to human beings occur naturally – without any human effort or creativity. But that suggestion is wrong. Nothing is naturally a resource; nature alone invests nothing with resourcefulness; ultimately, resources – all resources – are created by human beings. Nature creates raw materials, but never creates resources. Raw materials and human artifacts are made into resources only if, and only when, and only insofar as, human creativity figures out a way (or ways) to employ those materials and artifacts in ways that satisfy genuine human desires.

The point, here, is that the term “natural resources” can be misleading about the role of nature in creating human bounty. Nature exists, to be sure; but human bounty is created by human creativity; nature in matters economic is not the prime mover. Nature’s role in determining who is and who isn’t materially wealthy is much smaller than we are sometimes led to believe when focusing on “natural resources.”

Here’s why I think this is a biblical insight.