Malthusians in the news again - New Scientist this time

As readers here might know, I have a special place in my heart for Malthusians. Not... Those Cassandras who cry to the heavens that OMFG, we only have XX years of YY resource left are, at my most charitable, fools and at worst, self-centered willful idiots. Here are links to a few of my posts: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Today, Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog talks about another Malthusian cry of Doom and Gloom:
Repeating the Same Mistake, Over and Over
Flowing Data draws my attention to this nutty chart in the New Scientist (I have never read the New Scientist, but my experience is that in periodicals one can generally substitute �Socialist� for the word �New�).

Will the world really run out of Indium in 5 years? Of course not. New sources will be found. If they are not, then prices will rise and a) demand with be reduced and b) efforts to find new sources will be redoubled. Push come to shove, as prices rise too much, substitutes will be found (which is why John D. Rockefeller probably saved the whales). Uranium is a great example � sure, proved reserves are low right now, but companies that mine the stuff know that there is tons out there. That is why they are going out of business, there is too much supply for the demand. Any spike in price would immediately generate tons of new developed resources. And even if we run out, there are enormous quantities of thorium which is a potential substitute in reactors.

Absolutely no one who was old enough to be paying attention to the news in the 1970s could have missed charts very similar to this. I remember very clearly mainstream articles that we would run out of oil, titanium, tungsten, etc. by the early 1990�s. Seriously, name one commodity we have plain run out of (*cough* Julian Simon *cough*).

People say, well, the resources have to be finite and I would answer, �I suppose, but given that we have explored and mined about 0.000001% of the Earth�s crust and none of the floating mineral reservoirs in space (called asteroids), I think we are a long, long way from running out.�

You would think that the guys running this analysis would get tired of being so wrong so consistently for so many decades, but in fact their real point is not about resources but about the US and capitalism. The point of the chart is not really to say that the world will credibly run out of tungsten, but to tell the world that it is time to get out their pitchforks because the US is stealing all their wealth and resources. It is an age-old zero-sum wealth fallacy that has never held any water, but remains a powerful talking point among socialists none-the-less.
To restate my line of thought, there has never, ever been a time when a Malthusian said that we were running out (or that a commodity would get more expensive) and that they were proven to be correct. Never. There was even a famous wager -- lost of course...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on April 24, 2009 9:08 PM.

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