and Economic Forces
The philosophy of the free market denies the existence of
time as a factor. In reality, time is
important in several ways.
The market may be slow to appreciate a scarcity, and
unwilling to pay a higher price.
The supply chain works at a finite pace, and there may be
significant stockholding of a product that can no longer be manufactured.
As a resource becomes scarcer, classical market economics
says that the price will rise. This does
not of itself mean that demand will reduce – indeed the product may become ever
more sought after. As an extreme example,
diamonds are only so sought after on account of their scarcity and high
price. Thus free market mechanisms do no
provide protection against a resource running out – and during the process, the
resource will be affordable by fewer and fewer people.
With living resources, the situation may be even more acute –
the non-sustainability of the resource may only become apparent after it has
fallen below critical mass, and is on an irretrievable downward spiral. This may well be what happens to the food
resources in our oceans.
Market economics says that as one resource becomes scarcer,
there will be an incentive to find alternatives. This may take time – and the alternatives may
be less satisfactory.
Finally, there is the “Tragedy of the Commons”. Each individual working in their own
self-interest may not lead to the optimum solution for everyone. Market economics is fundamentally about
All too often, the technological brilliance of the global age
of mass communication kills the past and breaks … older allegiances in just a
few generations. Michael Wood, The Story
of India, p.65
We underestimate the people of the past at our peril. Ibid, p.72.
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on
retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no
direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those
who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The Life of Reason (1905-1906) at Project Gutenberg