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Resources are finite, and the population is growing. Doesn't our current exploitation of resources deny their benefits to future generations and thus essentially sacrifices their livelihood for our benefit, thereby violating the principles of objectivism?

asked Jan 26 '11 at 01:42

Junky's gravatar image


edited Jan 27 '11 at 10:16

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦


"Depsite the claims so often made that we are in danger of running out of natural resources, the fact is that the world is made out of natural resources--out of solidly packed natural resources, extending from the upper limits of its atmosphere to its very center, four thousand miles down." "The problem of natural resources is in no sense one of intrinsic scarcity." "Technically, this supply may be described as finite, but for all practical purposes it is infinite."

From Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, by George Reisman, Chap. 3, Natural Resources and the Environment.

(Jan 26 '11 at 10:18) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I am reminded of a bumper sticker that I read about on the internet, "Earth First - We Will Strip Mine the rest of the Planets later."

(Jan 27 '11 at 10:09) Prometheus1 ♦ Prometheus1's gravatar image

I'd challenge your basic assumption that we're using up our natural resources, and we will soon run out. It may be true that some specific resources will soon (i.e., in less than a person's lifetime) no longer be commercially viable to extract with our current technology. However, that assumes that our current technology will stay the same, and that the market won't find replacements. Historically speaking, neither has proven to be a good assumption. People have consistently improved both their ability to extract resources, as well as their ability to find substitutes as needed.

I'd recommend Alex Epstein's work with oil as an example of how this has consistently been true over the 100+ years oil has been in use. You can find many of his articles on the Ayn Rand Institute's Science & Environmentalism page.

Accepting that we aren't actually in danger of being deprived of resources (either because we'll get better at finding them, or will develop replacements), it doesn't hold with the Objectivist ethics for actual living people today to sacrifice their comfort, happiness, and economic progress for a possible benefit to people yet unborn.

answered Jan 26 '11 at 03:23

Andrew%20Miner's gravatar image

Andrew Miner ♦

edited Jan 26 '11 at 20:18

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Asked: Jan 26 '11 at 01:42

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Last updated: Jan 27 '11 at 10:16