Monday, January 17, 2005
The most irritating fallacy I run across these days is this idea that there is some finite amount of wealth in the world, and that once it's used up there is no more to be had anywhere at any time by anyone. This is crapola of the highest order. Wealth is unlimited, because what comprises wealth is not raw materials, but the act of employing them in a new and useful way. The classic example is that of oil. Oil used to be a nuisance -- it spelled doom for any field where it was found, because it ruined crops. It wasn't until someone figured out that oil was useful for something that it became a commodity, and it was at that point that new wealth was created. When it was further discovered that oil could be refined into gasoline, more wealth was created. Someone figured out how to make plastics, and still more wealth was created. When you stack up all of the things that are based on petroleum, the amount of wealth created out of something that used to be a curse to farmers is absolutely staggering.
Oil is not the only example of this, either. Iron used to be just another rock. So was uranium. Iron and coal were used separately for a long time before someone got the idea to combine them into steel. Copper was passe for centuries until someone discovered it was a good conductor of electricity. And the wealth creation is not limited to the great scientific discoveries and technological advances of mankind. Wealth is created out of conservation efforts, for example. I'm a big fan of programs about the creation of houses out of old Pennsylvania Dutch timber-framed barns. These are buildings destined for the burnpile, when someone comes along and takes the old beams to make a new house out of them. This is wood of a size and quality that cannot be readily found these days. Various recycling programs create wealth out of trash, by reusing the items which would otherwise be thrown away.
Case in point: Farmers using manure to generate electricity. New wealth. Easy, ain't it?
The only limits on the creation of wealth are man's ingenuity and the desire of other men to keep him from taking advantage of his ideas, usually through force of government.
Posted by Tom, 1/17/2005 5:32:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...