Scarcity and Growth: The Economics of Natural Resource Availability

Scarcity and Growth: The Economics of Natural Resource Availability

Scarcity and Growth: The Economics of Natural Resource Availability

Scarcity and Growth: The Economics of Natural Resource Availability

Excerpt

No problem is of deeper concern to mankind than that of coming to terms with the natural environment so that it will support a reasonably satisfying way of life. With the spread of modern science and technology during the past century and a half the problem has changed somewhat, at least for the economically more advanced areas of the world where the pressure of population on the resource base has been reduced. In such countries, and pre-eminently in the United States, there is no present threat of general resource scarcity--indeed, for basic agricultural products there is glut--but the age-old goal of winning a higher level of living from the soil, the water, and the subsoil minerals continues to call forth the enterprise and labor of large numbers of people as well as to tax, at times, the ingenuity of policymakers. Even though technological innovation and managerial skill appear to assure Americans of adequate quantities of raw materials, the prospect of qualitative deterioration of the environment--in its livability and its aesthetic appeal--must concern us as a problem of the first rank.

Harold J. Barnett and Chandler Morse have addressed the "man/land" or the "population/resource" problem afresh, in terms of the latest statistical information and modern analytical tools. They have re-examined the propositions propounded by Malthus, Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill; and they have thought deeply about the roots of the American Conservation Movement associated with Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot as these roots may be traced back into Darwinism and the speculations of George Marsh. They have emerged with a clearer view of where the essence of the problem is now to be found and what it means for people today.

It is not inaccurate to say this book is a reformulation of the theories of Malthus and his immediate associates and successors in the nineteenth-century stream of English classical economics. But it is not what has come to be called a Neo-Malthusian adaptation; the great forces it deals with are the same, but the implications of the reformulation are quite different. And the speculations it offers about the future may well change profoundly the intellectual content and . . .

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