Looking at natural resources as limits to growth

Summary:  Previous posts about the future of economic growth in America have examined the drivers of growth. Today we look at the most commonly cited barrier to growth: a future scarcity of natural resources.

Limits To Growth
Available at Amazon.

A typical doomster prediction, more precise and famous than most (quite unlike those in Limits to Growth):

“If current trends continue by the year 2000 the United Kingdom will simply be a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people, of little or no concern to the other 5-7 billion inhabitants of a sick world. … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

— Paul R. Ehrlich speaking in London at the Institute of Biology in Autumn 1969. From “In Praise of Prophets” by Bernard Dixon in the New Scientist, 16 September 1971.

Ehrlich also predicted worldwide plague, thermonuclear war, death of all sea-food, “rocketing” death rates, and ecological catastrophe. Dixon reported that “the audience loved it and gasped for more”.

World in our hands
Contents

  1. Predictions of resource scarcity
  2. Reality of ample supplies
  3. Why have we not run out?
  4. For More Information

(1)  Predictions of resource scarcity

Excerpt from “The Doomslayer“.
By Ed Regis in Wired, February 1997.

“The environment is going to hell, and human life is doomed to only get worse, right? Wrong. Conventional wisdom, meet Julian Simon, the Doomslayer.”

“This is the litany: Our resources are running out. The air is bad, the water worse. The planet’s species are dying off – more exactly, we’re killing them at the staggering rate of 100,000 per year, a figure that works out to almost 2,000 species per week, 300 per day, 10 per hour, another dead species every 6 minutes. We’re trashing the planet, washing away the topsoil, paving over our farmlands, systematically deforesting our wildernesses, decimating the biota, and ultimately killing ourselves.

“The world is getting progressively poorer, and it’s all because of population, or more precisely, overpopulation. There’s a finite store of resources on our pale blue dot, spaceship Earth, our small and fragile tiny planet, and we’re fast approaching its ultimate carrying capacity. The limits to growth are finally upon us, and we’re living on borrowed time. The laws of population growth are inexorable. Unless we act decisively, the final result is written in stone: mass poverty, famine, starvation, and death.

“Time is short, and we have to act now. That’s the standard and canonical litany. It’s been drilled into our heads so far and so forcefully that to hear it yet once more is … well, it’s almost reassuring. It’s comforting, oddly consoling – at least we’re face to face with the enemies: consumption, population, mindless growth. And we know the solution: cut back, contract, make do with less. “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

“There’s just one problem with The Litany, just one slight little wee imperfection: every item in that dim and dreary recitation, each and every last claim, is false. Incorrect. At variance with the truth.

“…Thus saith The Doomslayer, one Julian L. Simon, a neither shy nor retiring nor particularly mild-mannered professor of business administration at a middling eastern-seaboard state university. Simon paints a somewhat different picture of the human condition circa 1997. {supporting evidence follows}

…Ehrlich, a Stanford University entomologist who as a youth had seen his best butterfly hunting grounds churned under the real estate developer’s plow, wrote the runaway best-seller The Population Bomb. Published in 1968, the book was solidly Malthusian.

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate, although many lives could be saved through dramatic programs to ‘stretch’ the carrying capacity of the earth by increasing food production and providing for more equitable distribution of whatever food is available. But these programs will only provide a stay of execution unless they are accompanied by determined and successful efforts at population control.”

“This late-breaking Malthusian out-burst, strangely enough, did set the world on fire. The book sold 3 million copies, became the best-selling environmental tract of all time, and got the author on The Tonight Show.

…The next year, 1969, Ehrlich published an article called “Eco-Catastrophe!” in Ramparts. “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born … By that time [1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions.”

“Then, in 1974, Ehrlich and his wife, Anne Ehrlich, also a Stanford biologist, published a new book, The End of Affluence, in which they warned of a “nutritional disaster that seems likely to overtake humanity in the 1970s (or, at the latest, the 1980s). Due to a combination of ignorance, greed, and callousness, a situation has been created that could lead to a billion or more people starving to death. … Before 1985 mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity” in which “the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be nearing depletion.”

In 1990, for his having promoted “greater public understanding of environmental problems,” Ehrlich received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. …Lester Brown, for example, founder and president of the Worldwatch Institute, who in 1981 wrote:

“The period of global food security is over. As the demand for food continues to press against the supply, inevitably real food prices will rise. The question no longer seems to be whether they will rise but how much.”

“All during the 1980s, however, wheat and rice prices declined; in mid-century, in fact, they reached all-time lows. But this made no difference, and in 1986, for his work on the “global economy and the natural resources and the systems that support it,”

“Lester Brown, too, received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. Julian Simon {who was consistently right where Ehrlich and Brown were wrong} never received a MacArthur award.”

(2)  The reality of ample supplies, at a price

Excerpt from “Betting on the Wealth of Nature: The Simon-Ehrlich Wager

 By David McClintick (journalist) and Ross B. Emmett (Professor of Politics, MI State U)
PERC Report of the Property and Environment Research Center, Fall 2005.

“{I}n October 1980 Ehrlich and his colleagues picked 5 different metals (chrome, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten), spending $200 on each metal. The total investment was worth $1,000 in 1980 prices. If in October 1990 the value of the five metals at their original 1980 quantities, adjusted for inflation, turned out to be greater than $1,000, then Ehrlich would win the bet. If the value were less, Simon would win the bet.

“…In October 1990, the price of the basket of metals had fallen substantially below its 1980 level. All the metals had experienced a drop in value. Moreover, the drop was so substantial that Simon would have won even if the values hadn’t been adjusted for inflation.

“…Simon’s response to the wager was more humble than that of many of his supporters. Responding to a question from the audience during a debate, for example, he said that he would win “not in every single place, not in every single time span, but on the average”. Prices in any short-run period, he recognized, are subject to fluctuations, and he might have lost the bet. Simon’s claim was that the human propensity to take advantage of new opportunities and innovate meant that commodities are likely to become less scarce. The general trend of natural resource prices should be downward sloping, even though individual decades might run counter to that trend.

“Simon’s claims can now be put to the test for the entire twentieth century. The U.S. Geological Survey has standardized the price data for all basic metals during the past century, using 1998 as the base year. We examined those data to determine the answers to three questions.

“First, would the outcome of the Simon-Ehrlich wager be the same if the bet had been extended to the entire twentieth century? The figure provides the 20th C price history of a composite of chrome, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. Despite ups and downs over the course of the past century, a wager in 1900 would have been won in 1999 by the person who predicted a decrease in natural resource prices. If someone invested $200 at 1900 metals’ prices in each of these five metals the inflation adjusted value of the same bundle of metals in 1999 would have been 53% lower. The person who took Simon’s position would have won over the entire century.

“Second, would Simon have won or lost in other decades? Was he just lucky to have picked the 1980s? The figure shows that the 1980s experienced the second largest drop in prices of the century, so to some extent Simon was lucky. He had said simply that he was more likely to win than to lose in any given decade, and indeed he would have won in only 5 decades (the 1900s, 1910s, 1940s, 1980s and 1990s). He would have lost by a few dollars in the 1950s, and by more significant amounts in the other 4 decades. This outcome confirms Simon’s suspicion that prices over short spans of time are as likely to rise as to decline, but the overall trend will be downward.”

(3)  Why have we not run out of resources

Opening of
Recovering lost knowledge about exhaustion of the Earth’s resources (such as Peak Oil).

“The short version, the key fact about mineral resources:  there is an inverse relationship between quantity and quality of reserves.  Low quality deposits are more common than high quality.  That’s why peak oil means acceleration of the capital expenditure required to extract the marginal barrel of oil.  From sticking a straw into the ground in Saudi Arabia to deep onshore well to deeps offshore to unconventional sources (e.g., heavy oil, bitumen/oil sands, pre-salt deposits under fantastic depths of water and rock),  to vaguely oil (e.g., kerogen/oil shale, coal-to-oil).

“Once we have explored the world for a given resources, rising prices drives this evolution.  New technology for extraction and efficiency can mitigate but not prevent these price increases.  This is lost knowledge for the general public, as seen in articles like Tom Keene’s at BusinessWeek, with a likely winner for dumbest thing written about energy in 2011:  “There is oil wherever people are putting holes in the ground.”  {In this post} we recover some of this knowledge. …”

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about financial markets, about Agriculture,  about Peak Oil and Energy, and especially these…

  1. Spreading the news: the end is nigh!
  2. Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off.
  3. Exaggerations and false predictions are good; truth is bad – about peak oil research.

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35 thoughts on “Looking at natural resources as limits to growth

    1. DaShui,

      Absolutely you must use ethanol.

      Ethanol is a way for agri corps to turn corn into profits, energized by your dollars (e.g., taxes and spending on fuel). Supported by an info-campaign of malarky, believed by a population of fools.

      Plutocrats gather power to makes money. This is a pure example of how New America works.

      Like

  1. “There’s just one problem with The Litany, just one slight little wee imperfection: every item in that dim and dreary recitation, each and every last claim, is false.”

    This statement implies that we are _not_ “killing [the planet’s species] … trashing the planet, washing away the topsoil, paving over our farmlands, systematically deforesting our wildernesses, decimating the biota”?

    Excuse me if I dump the Simon “everything is white” with the Ehrlich “everything is black” into the same bag to be thrown away.

    Your older post was particularly interesting, especially the exposition by Ronald Prain. His last explanations are portentous: “The ultimate constraint in the future production of copper is, strictly speaking, outside the control of the industry, but it is a matter which is of vital concern to us all the availability and cost of future supplies of energy. […] In my view, if there are to be limits to growth they will be imposed not by a disappearance of physical resources, but because it may become uneconomic to develop these resources, and because there could be an ultimate constraint in the form of availability, cost and input of energy.”

    We are back to the same conundrum: affordable sources of energy — that do not pollute as much as those used today.

    By the way: why do you include in this present post an analysis of the Simon/Erhlich bet dating from 2005, when in your older post you referred to a more recent (2010) analysis spanning a longer time period?

    Like

    1. Guest,

      “statement implies that we are _not_ “killing [the planet’s species] … trashing the planet, washing away the topsoil, paving over our farmlands, systematically deforesting our wildernesses, decimating the biota”?”

      (A). The species death rate is not well known. Claims of an on-going species holocaust based on models are, IMO, specious. It is certainly small compared to naturally occurring bursts — such as during the onset of ice ages and eruption of super volcanoes (e.g., Toba, Yellowstone).

      (B) Global farmland loss due to “paving over” is tiny as a percent of total.

      (C) Forest cover is increasing in the developed world. As emerging nations grow richer, they too will probably follow this trend.

      Simon discusses these claims at length, as indicated in the article, showing their poor empirical foundation.

      Most of these are fundamentally linked to wealth, technology and population. The peaking of population around 2050 (IMO probably sooner), probably followed by a steep decline, will greatly reduce our pressure on the biosphere. Increasing wealth and tech also will do so, far more and faster.

      Like

  2. Ill-conceived projections notwithstanding, there always has been and always will be a fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection.

    And of course there is a limit to growth. As Brian Czech points out in Supply Shock: Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution, to think there is no limit to growth on Earth is mathematically equivalent to thinking that you can have a steady state economy on a perpetually diminishing landmass.

    So for example you could squeeze the global economy into North America, then Texas, then Lubbock, then the mayor’s house, etc., leaving the rest of the world as a designated wilderness area. Anyone who thinks natural resources are not ultimately limiting to GDP growth won’t be thinking the same after reading Supply Shock.

    http://supplyshock.org

    Like

    1. Hilyer,

      “And of course there is a limit to growth”

      I am uncertain what that means. On several levels.

      (1). Environmental impacts

      As tech advances it seems likely that the environmental impact per dollar of economic activity will decrease.

      Among other reasons, pollution is to a large extent the result of inefficient chemical or physical reactions (e.g., even heat pollution is to some extent the result of low conversion efficiency). That is already decreasing, with the potential for far more drastic improvements in the future.

      Anthropogenic impacts on the biosphere seem likely to remain large through 2050 (falling in the developed nation, rising on the emerging nations) — but the combination of probable falling population and better tech mean that biosphere disruption might be a smaller factor in the second half of the 21st century.

      See the next comment for part two.

      Like

    2. Hilyer,

      (2). What is growth?

      For people in the world’s upper middle class, economic growth is increasingly non-material — as expected by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

      For example, people don’t buy more cars and drive ever more miles. They drive high-status green cars. They shift goals from more stuff to more leisure. They spend on more art rather than more food.

      Like

    3. Hillyer,

      (3). Resource constraints

      Materials, almost certainly not. As described in this post — assuming that the emerging nations follow the trend of everybody else to falling fertility (e.g., Iran from 6.6 in 1977 to 1.6 in 2012), and does not reverse.

      My guess (emphasis on guess) is that fertility will continue to fall as feminism continues to penetrate world cultures (including in developed world) AND tech improves (e.g., a safe effective male pill might change the world).

      The possible exception is energy for a brief number of generations between the exhaustion of fossils fuels in the mid-21st century ( guessing) and the development of next-gen energy sources (date unknown – my guess is no more than a few decades away).

      Like

    1. Benign,

      I totally disagree.

      Nukes work today when run under adequate supervision (e.g., France and Germany).

      With research into next-gen systems, nukes could work far safer and more efficiently.

      Fusion is certainly possible. Progress has been slow, since almost all funding has gone to Tomack and laser ignition systems -/ which are making very slow progress.

      There are many alternatives, mostly funded with the equivalent of pocket lint (we prefer to invest our national seed capital in futile foreign wars). Such as the Polywell.

      For details see the articles listed here (I stopped updating this page in 2012, but gives a feel for our options):
      https://fabiusmaximus.com/peak-oil/peak-oil-other/

      Like

    2. Bending,

      I assume you were kidding by referring to that fun but silly article.

      It has zero relevance to this discussion. Yes, everybody who got past sophomore college knows that straight line extrapolations break down eventually. Life is about how and when.

      Similar graphs about limitations of horse-powered economies broke down circa 1900 – but economic growth continued.

      Like

  3. Fab –

    The point of the referenced article was that we cannot continue growth of energy *use* without overheating the planet. Probably no one commenting today doubts that human population and energy use on Earth can stabilize at some sustainable level, but energy use must stop growing. See following.

    “Physicist: [sigh of relief: not a space cadet] Alright, the Earth has only one mechanism for releasing heat to space, and that’s via (infrared) radiation. We understand the phenomenon perfectly well, and can predict the surface temperature of the planet as a function of how much energy the human race produces. The upshot is that at a 2.3% growth rate (conveniently chosen to represent a 10× increase every century), we would reach boiling temperature in about 400 years. [Pained expression from economist.] And this statement is independent of technology. Even if we don’t have a name for the energy source yet, as long as it obeys thermodynamics, we cook ourselves with perpetual energy increase.[…]

    Economist: [furrowed brow] Okay, but I still think our path can easily accommodate at least a steady energy profile. We’ll use it more efficiently and for new pursuits that continue to support growth.

    Physicist: Before we tackle that, we’re too close to an astounding point for me to leave it unspoken. At that 2.3% [recent actual] growth rate, we would be using energy at a rate corresponding to the total solar input striking Earth in a little over 400 years. We would consume something comparable to the entire sun in 1400 years from now. By 2500 years, we would use energy at the rate of the entire Milky Way galaxy—100 billion stars! I think you can see the absurdity of continued energy growth. 2500 years is not that long, from a historical perspective. We know what we were doing 2500 years ago. I think I know what we’re not going to be doing 2500 years hence.[…]”

    The whole post is worth reading. At some point in the relatively near future “economic growth” will have to require zero incremental energy expenditure.

    Like

    1. Benign,

      “The point of the referenced article was that we cannot continue growth of energy *use* without overheating the planet.”

      The concern is so remote as to be absurd. It is typical of doomster obsession with distant and low probability scenarios. It is flak in our decision-making process.

      What were the major energy sources used in 1600, 400 years ago? What was high-tech?

      The first modern canal in the UK was 140 years in the future. The first hydropowered mechanical spinning machine 170 years away. The first effective steam engine was 175 years in the future.

      A person of 1600 could even begin to imagine our world. I doubt that we can imagine the tech of 2400 AD.

      We have serious problems. Heat death in 2400 AD is not on the list.

      Like

    2. Asdf,

      I do not believe “bias” is a useful term when discussing views of climate scientists. Their internal mental and moral states don’t matter.

      Most of the key debates among climate science concern things on the edge of available data and understandings. Since these have become politicized, the activists — like those writing Skeptical Science — present the views they like as fact.

      Professionals — like the IPCC — present things in terms of probabilities and uncertainties. The graphic showing forcing is the output of a model of the Earth’s climate. Perhaps it is correct, perhaps not.

      Like

    3. Dyson Sphere is completely opposite of what is easy to do. It is much easier to use energy of fields in vacum, or zero point energy. Fields like electrical or higgs fields. While using power of the sun by Dyson Sphere again represents the problem of transporting and receiving such colosal energies. On the other hand zero point can be accesed by a small aparauts in every house or building and use as needed.
      Cold fusion is using zero point energy by chemical reaction and transmutation of atoms rather then merging of atoms. One atom is receiving protons from other one and both transmutate instead of fusing one from two. That is why it is cold and produces smaller amounts of energy. The temperature at the center of reaction is under 1,500 C* while exiting temperature can barely achieve 200 C*
      Also the crystals can be excited by lasers and provide smaller amount of energy.
      Add hydroxy production by alternator and you get complementary fuel for burning inside explosion motors. It is optimising the use of energy from explosion by using excess power to turn alternator, that is all it does.
      Most of these should be used as suplemental rather then major source of energy. Major one should be solar that still has a lot of developement to go. Solar cell paint has a lot of potential.

      We could optimise a lot of power usage in order to expand what it is used for at the present ammount of resources used. LED lamps are optimizing electricity for light only and reducing the energy for light and heat (or light from heat) as old light bulbs do. This leaves much more energy for other functions at the present production levels.

      Like

    4. Jordan,

      “Dyson Sphere is completely opposite of what is easy to do. It is much easier to use energy of fields in vacum, or zero point energy.”

      Is this humor?

      Both are sci-FI, and might not even be possible. Confidently stating which is easier seems silly.

      Like

    5. Writing it in a present tense is making it a parody. If i wrote it as a possibility in the future then it would not be Sci-Fi but a possibility. But since you started with humor i continued it as such.
      Is my language skill so bad that the difference is berely noticable?

      I only used zeropoint terminology instead of accepted terminology while describing the same processes that are used today.

      Like

  4. I found that book shown in the picture above, ‘The Limits to Growth’, to be quite thought-provoking.

    The models used by the authors seem very sophisticated, much more so than anything Mr Malthus came up with, and they have apparently been mostly correct so far. The book’s major prediction, a collapse of human population and living conditions some time in the middle of the 21st century precipitated by resource depletion, pollution accretion, and food shortages, has yet to be confirmed (or disproved).

    It is just a model though, and even very sophisticated models fail. Malthus of course never foresaw the Green Revolution. Conversely there are any number of ways that the world could change in the next half century that could not be anticipated now, let alone back in the 1970’s when the model was designed. To name just a few optimistic wild-card possibilities:
    1. Technology developments will allow us all to be equally or more content with having fewer material goods per person and with using less energy per person (for example, just think of all the various electronic products that no one wants any more because modern phones have rendered them unnecessary).
    2. Attitudes toward pollution and environmental sustainability could change drastically (for example, environmentalism is already becoming very prevalent in China, probably thanks to the smog that notoriously chokes their cities).
    3. Development of abundant alternative energy sources. Nuclear fusion is oft-cited, but there is also methane hydrate which, as The Atlantic reported last year, might provide a functionally indefinite energy source.
    4. Here’s a big one; there is the real possibility that expanded use of birth control and the rapid urbanization of the developing world will lead to much lower fertility rates than experts have anticipated.
    There are also of course a number of very pessimistic wild cards which, in the interests of staying positive, I won’t care to mention.

    So for me, this sort of demographic and resource prediction exercise is certainly useful as a planning tool. It’s something that should be revisited and updated periodically. Still, we should be careful to take it only for what it is; no more, no less.

    Like

  5. Fab –

    You fooled me! All of a sudden you’re an optimist, not a dooming and glooming pessimist bewailing how America is going down the tubes and no one is doing anything about it!

    Now I know the stock market is going to crash. ;)

    cheers,
    Benign

    Like

    1. Fab,

      Seriously, I appreciate your efforts. Whether we suffer the much-anticipated collapse or a smooth logistic transition to steady state, population-wise, such a transition does *seem* to be required within a century or two, that’s all I’m maintaining. I don’t know any environment with infinite carrying capacity. Meanwhile, if you believe the scientific consensus on climate, we have big problems there, and as you point out, our political economies are becoming more perverse by the day. (See http://www.guymcpherson.com for the ultimate in climate-based human extinction porn. I hate the doomsayers who get MacArthur grants as much as you do, but you must remember Aristotle’s admonition that the rehearsal of catastrophe is a human need. Sociopathic optimists–no reflection on current company–go into investment banking sales.)

      I suggest you follow up this post with something on the collapse literature. If we suffer climate chaos and human systems failure at the same time, new limitations will certainly be imposed on economic growth. Reading McPherson who forecasts human extinction when the climate reaches +4C made me think that the “remnant” that survives into such conditions will be the plutocrats who can commandeer the resources to cool themselves and their offspring. Not the cheeriest thought.

      Thanks for your good work.

      cheers,
      Benign

      Like

    2. Benign,

      Some things look promising. Some don’t. Also, these things depend on the time horizon being discussed. Adopting a fixed outlook of optimism or pessimism is silly.

      Dismissing obvious and imminent dangers as you appear to do — because they are pessimistic — has a bad track record.

      Like

  6. Fab –

    Enough with the ad hominem, I was just kidding. I am always totally impartial. Emotion never enters into my judgments. I agree with Todd’s statement; the Club of Rome might be right in time.

    But I do challenge you who seem to have a lot of time on your hands to write about the current ongoing collapse of the American economy (where I am content to say that an economy in which the majority of households’ real incomes are declining in a secular fashion is collapsing).

    When does economic system failure produce limits on growth independent of physical resources? That would seem to be the greater problem today.

    cheers,
    benign

    Like

    1. Benign,

      (1) “Enough with the ad hominem”
      I commented about what you said, not who you are. Very different things.

      (2) “to have a lot of time on your hands”
      Most absurd thing you have said so far.

      (3) “to write about the current ongoing collapse of the American economy”

      (a) I have written a lot about this. It’s one of the major subjects discussed here.

      (b) The US economy is not collapsing. That’s totally false. It has been slowly expanding since mid-2009, driven by massive fiscal and monetary stimulus. By a wide variety of measures, the rate of growth has been slightly over 2% per year during the past two or three years.

      Like

  7. Physical resources don’t “grow” and never will. You need to do a LOT more research. This essay was a pile of crap.

    Like

  8. Relevant for discussion, not advocated as a solution…

    “We argue that the Great Plague of 1348-50 was the key. Between one third and one half of Europeans died. With land-labour ratios now higher, per capita output and wages surged. Since population losses were massive, they could not be compensated quickly. For a few generations, the old continent experienced a “golden age of labour”. British real wages only recovered their 1450s peak in the age of Queen Victoria (Phelps-Brown and Hopkins, 1981).

    Temporarily higher wages changed the nature of demand. Despite having more children, people had more income than necessary for mere subsistence – population losses were too large to be absorbed entirely by the demographic response.

    Some of the surplus income was spent on manufactured goods. These goods were mainly produced in cities. Thus, urban centres grew in size. Higher incomes also generated more trade. Finally, the increasing number and wealth of cities expanded the size of the monetised sector of the economy. The wealth of cities could be taxed or seized by rulers. Resources available for fighting wars increased – war was effectively a superior good for early modern princes.

    Therefore, as per capita incomes increased, death rates rose in parallel. This generates a potential for multiple equilibria. Figure 4 illustrates the mechanism. The death rate increases over some part of the income range, which maps into urbanisation rates.”

    http://www.voxeu.org/article/wars-plagues-and-europe-s-rise-riches

    Like

    1. Steve,

      Thanks for posting! That’s a fascinating comparison, and worth pondering.

      The changes in income distribution, shifting from capital to wages, was fought by the rich. Such as by passing maximum wage laws to keep wages down, a form of price control.

      We see something similar today, when rising and record high profits are good — but rising wages is “wage inflation”.

      Our world differs in so many wYs from that of the 14thC, but there are commonalities.

      Like

  9. Cui bono, cui malo.

    Even if resources are available, they take energy to distribute, and energy may be the primary resource. The Copenhagen Consensus set its top priority as ‘Micronutrient supplements for children (vitamin A and zinc)’. This is an ecological scarcity, where proximity to the resource is lacking.

    People add ‘forced artificial scarcities’ to induce profits. The study above analyzes a situation with temporarily forced surpluses.

    If money is the scarce resource, perhaps Steve Keen is onto something. We could give $15,000 to every person in the United States and still not match what the Fed has handed the banks in the last half-decade.

    Like

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