Oct 26, 2007

Sheldon Richman on resources

Men begin with only their labor and nature-given materials. They have to apply their labor to rearrange the materials in order to produce things of value. That requires ingenuity. And ingenuity is clearly the more important of the two. In fact, it is ingenuity that turns nature-given materials into resources. It was ingenuity that turned worthless underground black gunk into valuable oil. It was ingenuity that turned sand into silicon. Nature, strictly speaking, does not provide resources; it provides materials. A resource is a product of man’s mind; a material stamped with man’s purpose.

As important as ingenuity is to the creation of wealth, it does not exist unconditionally. To think, to discover what they need and how to produce it, men must be free. They can’t create at the point of a gun.

~ Sheldon L. Richman, "Phony Benevolence," The Free Market, October 1989

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