We should not advocate restraint to avoid over exploitation of natural resources. We should advocate laissez-faire Capitalism.
In a free market, it is not possible to "over exploit" a resource. That is because prices reflect both present and future value of a product. Because of this, prices increase far earlier than the resource "runs out" signaling the market that alternatives are more welcome. All resources have alternatives available, and as the price of one resource increases alternatives become more economically viable. I'm pretty sure this concept is clearly explained in Thomas Sowell's book "Basic Economics."
Every example of "over exploitation" revolves around government control. The specific example of fish is an example of the tragedy of the commons. That is, because a resource is commonly available, with no ownership of that resource, the resource is over used. Public pastures are over grazed. Publish fisheries are over fished. If these resources were privately owned, the owners would have huge incentives to ensure the resource was managed properly, and was maximally productive. Craig Biddle has quipped, "The tragedy of the commons, is that there is a commons." (He may not have been the first.)
So, the only thing we need to worry about, to avoid over exploitation, is to eliminate government control of property, and this will render the question irrelevant.
answered Oct 13 '10 at 22:36
John Hoffman ♦
The number of resources human beings have run out of throughout history: 0. Why not? Not because we have "restrained" ourselves from "over-exploiting" these resources. (You could even argue that in the past there were instances of over-cultivation of certain resources as the result of poorly defined property rights.)
I would name two reasons. The first is that, as economic George Reisman has pointed out, the earth is one enormous ball of natural resources. The second is that natural resources are created by the human mind. We have to discover their potentialities, where they can be found, how to extract them from the earth, how to put them to new and better uses. In other words, raw materials become resources through a process of reason-guided economic progress--and this process opens up more and more areas of the earth (and eventually space) to economic development.
What we need is not more restraint but less, i.e., more freedom.
answered Oct 13 '10 at 09:15