The Overpopulation Myth

21.04.2020

In addition to the alleged problem of human induced climate change, the leftist/ elitist/ environmentalist/ anti-human monologue is beginning to make increasingly explicit noises about the equally mythical problem of overpopulation. “Too many people” is often blamed on a number of apparent calamities, right from the shortage of particular (usually “essential”) resources all the way up to the outright poverty of entire continents, not to mention the effect of population growth upon the supposed “climate emergency” itself. Although few states have enacted explicit policies in order to stop their citizenry from procreating, factoids such as the suggestion that a dozen earths would be needed for every single human to enjoy a Western lifestyle attempt to create an unwarranted degree of hysteria. Of course, the fact that the notion of population control jars with the liberal attitude towards open borders (which can lead to the very real problem of local overpopulation), and that those calling for population reduction never seem willing to offer their own necks for the chopping block are both challenges that are seldom raised. Indeed, in response to the proclamation of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Wokeness, that they will have only two children in order to “save the planet”, one is tempted to ask why they are bothering to breed at all if the problem is really that serious. Very few of the rest of us, no doubt, would have a great deal of concern if the liberal-left refused to pass its genes on to future generations.

As we shall see here, overpopulation can never be a serious or long lasting issue when there is a society distinguished by free market capitalism. It does, however, have the potential to be a serious problem when a society is blighted by state interference (although the primary effects are still likely to be local rather than general).

Anti-Humanity

The overpopulation myth rests on a belief that is fundamental to what Murray N Rothbard called “the professional foes of humanity”, the environmentalist movement.This is the notion that humanity is akin to some kind of cancer which, as it grows exponentially, devours a fixed (or insufficiently growing) pool of resources that must be shared between everyone unfortunate enough to have been born. Humans are vociferous consumers and wasters, each of whom breed two or three more consumers and wasters, stripping the Earth of all of its precious gifts before filling its sky with smoke and its oceans with sewage. Hence, fanatics at Extinction Rebellion happily welcomed the recent outbreak of coronavirus as the “cure” to the disease of mankind (and even though the declaration was later claimed to be fake nobody seemed to be surprised by the possibility that it was genuine). Even more extreme incarnations of this view, which regard the natural state of the earth as something that is inherently valuable, beautiful and untouchable, believe that the answer to all of its ecological problems is to simply let the human race die out completely. Says the author of a recent book propounding this view:

People wonder why I don’t think humans are exceptional, dominant beings – but when I ask them why they think that, I never get a good answer back. The way we perceive the world isn’t the only one, we never think about animal life.

Without any hint of irony, the author goes on to remark that her calls for humanity’s imminent demise “are not as provocative as they may initially sound,” before suggesting that we should celebrate her stance for its “joyful and optimistic tone, as it sets out a positive view for the future of Earth – without mankind”.

Such palpable tripe would be unworthy of a serious response were it not for the anti-human core of the wider environmentalist movement. The reason why humans are, indeed, dominant and exceptional beings compared to animals is because our actions are not controlled merely by our instinct or by our environment. Rather, we use our critical faculty of reason to understand the world around us and to transform it for our benefit rather than being forever subject to the unrelenting cruelty of raw nature. Thus, we achieve improvement, enjoyment and well-being rather than mere survival; we seek comfort, refinement, and taste rather than just food and shelter. We endeavour to understand science and technology, building structures that reach the heavens or span great lengths, and piloting craft that can fly into the air or into space. We enrich ourselves and our perceptions with art, philosophy and culture rather than simply enduring a mundane existence. Our relationships, which are essential for social co-operation, are governed by consciously acknowledged rules, customs, conventions and manners (not to mention deeply held emotions such as love) rather than by any symbiosis (or antagonism) imposed by nature. To the extent that animals assist us in all of these pursuits – either as friendly companions such as dogs and cats, or as working assistants such as horses or dairy cows – then we welcome them and nurture them. To the extent that they are hostile, threatening and dangerous – such as mosquitoes, rats and snakes – then we seek to curtail or eliminate them. Even when we consume animals for food they are normally bred precisely for that purpose so it is not the case that any specific cow, chicken or lamb spared from the slaughterhouse would be rolling around with merriment in a field. Either way, however, no other animal has come anywhere near the level of achievement reached by humans, nor – in spite of the fact that some of the higher primates display humanistic qualities – do they have the ability to do so.

It is for this reason that anti-human arguments are self-defeating. Because of our unique faculty of reason we alone can make judgments about what should and should not be. Absent any humans, the world in a state of nature simply exists – it is neither good nor bad and neither beautiful nor ugly, it is simply there as a ball floating through space. All of the animals that would inhabit such a world would, themselves, have no conscious appreciation of their environment, perceiving neither benefit nor loss from any change. Rather, it takes a human to come along and form a judgment from a conscious perception of the situation. The very endeavour of philosophy, or any attempt to determine what is good or bad, inherently puts the needs of humanity ahead of the needs of other beings and unconscious matter. For even the opinion that the world should be configured for animal needs is a human opinion, and so it is ultimately to the benefit of humans holding that opinion to see the world configured in such a manner.

Pricing, Profit and Loss

Bolstering this anti-human stance is the idea that humans have no mechanism for regulating their propensity to breed and, thus, their insatiable destruction of the natural world. This may have been the case centuries ago in a hand-to-mouth society that preceded capitalism and the division of labour. There was effectively no production and the birth of each individual person constituted little more than another mouth to feed. In other words, an increase in population led to an increase in demand for consumption without any corresponding increase in production, thus putting pressure on the existing stock of resources that had to be shared by everyone. The highest sustainable population density for such a society living in the richest of natural environments has been estimated at 21.6 persons per square mile. In contrast, most of Western Europe today supports several hundred per square mile, with large cities supporting magnitudes into the thousands.

The same mechanism helps also to control local populations by ensuring that regional prices of local resources reflect the regional population level. In areas with relatively high populations and low concentrations of resources there would be higher access costs – higher house prices, higher food prices, and so on – deterring people away from an area where there are already too many people. On the other hand, areas with relatively sparse populations and relatively higher concentrations of resources would have lower access costs, encouraging people to move to those places instead of crowding into areas which are already feeling the pressure of resource constraints. This is one of the ways in which migration would be regulated in a free society – through the pricing system, the market sends signals to prospective migrants telling them which areas need them and which areas do not. Indeed, the whole reason why people in past generations migrated to uncultivated or sparsely cultivated land – as the Americans did when they moved further west – was because this surplus of fertile land promised a better life than that which could be achieved from applying more labour to existing, homesteaded land.Today, however, this is not true. Even if, for the moment, we assume that the level of resources is, in this manner, relatively fixed, then we already have a mechanism for controlling population that does not rely upon the state in order to solve any problem of over-breeding – the pricing, profit and loss system. As the increasing population fuels an increased consumption of resources, the supply of the latter will diminish faster and so their prices will rise. This means, in turn, that the cost of raising a child becomes prohibitively more expensive, and so people would need to choose between devoting ever more valuable resources to themselves or to raising more children. Birth rates will then begin to decline and the pressure on resources will be eased.In fact, it was internalising the costs of raising children through the family unit (as well as the concomitant rules concerning sexual morality) that was one of the first effective controls upon population. Even today, in spite of all of the ways in which the state manages to subsidise the raising of children, it is still the case that, in the developed world where markets can operate, the typical female gives birth to one to three children over the course of her life compared to up to eight in parts of Africa. Moreover, people have, and are projected to, settle around these numbers as their societies progress. Thus, although the infant morality rate is also higher in poorer countries, people do exercise restraint where the appropriate incentives are in place, producing a more optimum number of children vis-à-vis the level of economic progress.3

In fact, it is the pricing, profit and loss system – as well as the private property rights upon which it depends – which helps to balance man’s activities with his environment generally. Far from decimating the natural world, capitalism has an inbuilt conservation ethic, for profits are equal to revenue minus costs. In other words, the profit motive provides as much incentive to minimise waste and consumption as it does to maximise revenue, yet ecological criticisms of capitalism notice only the latter. Such minimisation of waste is especially important with the stewardship of natural resources, such as farmland, the oil in a well, gold in a mine, or even productive animals. As these resources can normally only deliver their services over a long period of time, when they are owned privately the value of their future services will be capitalised on a firm’s balance sheet. Progressive exploitation of, say, an oil well will gradually diminish its capital value, the cost of which will appear as a charge on the firm’s income statement. Thus, a firm has to ensure that the revenue raised from each barrel of oil extracted exceeds the loss of capital value incurred from that extraction. If the firm makes a gross profit in this regard then its exploitation of the well is sustainable, and valuable oil is being conserved. If it makes a loss then it is wasting oil and needs to cut back on production. Moreover, with renewable resources such as fertile farmland and animals, this mechanism creates also an incentive for regeneration and maintenance so as to keep the capital value of these resources elevated. It is only when private ownership of such resources is disturbed or outlawed – such as in the case of rainforests, fish stocks in the sea, and with animals such as elephants and tigers – that this is important cost is removed, and so the only incentive remaining is to exploit the resource to exhaustion, a situation economists refer to as the “tragedy of the commons”. Indeed, there is no reason why capitalism should drive elephants and whales close to extinction but not dairy cows or chickens.

However, humans have long since moved on from being mere consumers to being producers, creators and builders to the extent that, in a capitalist society marked by the division of labour, there is not a fixed or arithmetically growing pool of wealth and resources. The whole purpose of such a society is to grow, exponentially, the amount of wealth that is available so that a rising population can be accomplished while the standard of living also rises in concert. In fact, as we shall see, humanity has succeeded in this endeavour to only a fraction of its capacity.

Humans as Producers

When the first human being trod the virgin soil of the Earth, he found himself in a situation of almost unrelenting poverty. Mother Nature – as anyone trapped for an extended period of time in the wilderness has discovered – is far from a kind host. Except for air to breathe and fruit on wild trees, the world contains very little that can be consumed immediately in exchange for a minimum degree of effort. Yet all of the matter contained in every consumer good that we enjoy today – buildings, cars, refrigerators, televisions, computers, clothing, medicines, and so – was, give or take a little, right there at the beginning of the world’s existence. Strictly speaking, no human being has ever created anything – rather he has merely transformed matter from one thing into another. So why, if all this matter was there from the very start, weren’t these wonderful things available to our first human? The reason is, of course, that a human must apply his labour in order to change the matter available in the world into useful resources that fulfil his ends. Yet the work of one man with his unaided body alone could not possibly create all of the wonderful things that we enjoy today. Indeed, it might take a single human being an entire day to, say, catch enough fish for just one meal before the process must be repeated the following day. How can this be limitation be overcome?

 

The fact that a greater number of humans can, together, lift and carry a far greater amount than one alone is pretty obvious and so, yes, several or many men building a house would accomplish the task in a far shorter time than one man alone. But the unique aspect of collective effort is it has the ability to be greater than the sum of its parts – in other words, ten people working together will produce more than ten people working individually. This is because population growth permits a widening of the division of labour, allowing each person to fill his day by specialising in a particular task. One man working alone, devoid of the ability to specialise, may take a year to build one house, and he would have to undertake every single activity related to the building work on his own after having learnt the intricacies of each task he must complete. With ten men, however, two may specialise in lumber felling, another two in transport, some in building, and so on, while the task of the last man may be solely to produce food and other supplies for the men doing direct work on the houses. The result of this is a greater degree and concentration of knowledge and an increased perfection of technique and expertise in each task. The resulting time saving means that, whereas one man might take one year to build one house, ten men would take less than one year to build ten houses. Thus, the rate of house building overtakes the rate of the increase in population.The first answer is quite simply the very bugbear that is complained about – an increased population. Peddlers of the overpopulation myth will tell you that additional humans represent nothing more than an additional demand for consumption – one human would require only one house whereas if we have ten humans then we would need to go the trouble of building ten houses. But these people are also producers, and it is their added consumption demand that spurs them to production.

This effect can only become greater as the population increases. If ten houses have to be produced then it may not be possible for one man to become completely specialised in any single task in order to fill his day; he might have to work in installing the wiring, the plumbing and the wallpaper, for instance. If, however, a hundred houses have to be built then he might be able to concentrate on plumbing alone. Further still, if a thousand houses are built then he might be able to specialise in fitting taps and accessories whereas someone else works on installing pipe work, for instance.

We can see, therefore, that the quantity of labour has a marked effect upon the accumulation of wealth and the transformation of matter into useful economic resources, provided that a society is distinguished by capitalism and the division of labour. Indeed, the glorious irony is that if more people want houses then houses are actually made more easily attainable (i.e. more affordable) than if only one person wanted them. For the increased consumption demand of an increased population begets a widening of the division of labour when that population is put to work, and with it come all the benefits of specialisation and expertise. The result is that consumer goods become more accessible and affordable. As Ludwig von Mises explains:

What makes friendly relations between human beings possible is the higher productivity of the division of labor. It removes the natural conflict of interests. For where there is division of labor, there is no longer question of the distribution of a supply not capable of enlargement. Thanks to the higher productivity of labor performed under the division of tasks, the supply of goods multiplies […] The very condition from which the irreconcilable conflicts of biological competition arise – viz., the fact that all people by and large strive after the same things – is transformed into a factor making for harmony of interests. Because many people or even all people want bread, clothes, shoes, and cars, large-scale production of these goods becomes feasible and reduces the costs of production to such an extent that they are accessible at low prices. The fact that my fellow man wants to acquire shoes as I do, does not make it harder for me to get shoes, but easier.4

The long term effect of this is that production is able to stay ahead of population growth, and extra mouths to feed become a positive contribution, not a burden.

Capital Goods

The second way in which we can more easily transform matter into useful resources is to create capital goods.

Although it is flexible, the human body is a relatively weak and feeble creature, capable of moving and lifting only a tiny amount of matter at any one time. Regardless, therefore, of the quantity of labour available we can see that fifty men carrying sacks on their back would fail to transport as many goods in as short a space of time as, say, a railway locomotive hauling some wagons. The power of labour is therefore a further limiting factor on the number of resources that can be enjoyed. This power can be increased only by accumulating ever greater amounts of capital goods. All such goods – machines, tools, vehicles, and so on – are, fundamentally, extensions of the human body that enable its labour to accomplish more than it otherwise would. A man wielding an axe can fell a greater a number of trees than a man whose body is unaided by this implement. For centuries, humans could not labour to extract crude oil from the ground and refine it into usable fuels. Yet with the capital goods available to construct drilling apparatus, oil rigs and refineries, this is no longer the case. Indeed, most direct labour today is concerned not with the production of consumption goods at all. Rather, it is devoted to the production, augmentation and improvement of capital goods. In short, it is directed towards increasing the power of labour.

Resources

What we begin to see, therefore, is that it is not the scarcity of natural resources burdened by an ever increasing population that is the real obstacle to the growth of wealth and economic progress; rather, it is the scarcity of labour and the limitations of the power of that labour as represented by the stock of capital goods which serve to enhance it. It is true, of course, that at any one moment goods are scarce – i.e. the given quantity of a good in a form in which it can be enjoyed right now exists in insufficient supply relative to the ends to which it could be devoted. But it is the quantity and power of our labour that significantly reduces the degree of scarcity that we must endure by bringing more and more natural resources within the circle of useful goods. For instance, my body may only have enough capability in order to fetch a few buckets of water from a nearby stream, yet more than three quarters of the globe is covered in water. It is because the power of my labour is relatively weak that most of this water is either too far away or of insufficient quality to serve me any practical end. But if many people work together to improve the power of labour – by investing in tools and machinery that can transport water greater distances and in processes of purification and sanitation, etc. – then more of this water becomes available for me to enjoy.

In contrast to the prophecies of the doomsayers, there is no reason to believe that this process of transforming ever more virgin resources into useful commodities (as well as the continued increases of efficiency in using those resources) cannot continue for the foreseeable future. Indeed, it is for these reasons – the increasing quantity and the increasing power of labour – that predictions of resource depletion as a result of overpopulation have failed. In the well known Ehrlich-Simon wager, for instance, economist Julian Simon made a bet in 1980 with biologist Paul Ehrlich that the price of five metals of Ehrlich’s choosing would have declined in price ten years later – indicating the increasing availability of resources rather than increasing scarcity. Simon won the bet outright, in spite of a population increase of 800 million during that decade. Other peddlers of the overpopulation thesis, such as Albert Allen Bartlett, have labelled the views presented here as “cornucopian” or “the new flat earth” – mythical, whimsical and not based on any serious scientific understanding. What these people share in common is that they either ignore or dismiss the future economic viability of producing goods from what are currently viewed as uneconomic resources. In other words, they have only ever considered resources in the manner in which they are presently accessible. But the clear result is that as population has increased we have been able to apply more labour with a greater power of that labour to a greater number of the world’s resources in ways that we were not able to do before. The ultimate goal would be something akin to molecular engineering – the ability to transform worthless matter such as dirt, rubbish, or even air into valuable resources. The futuristic “replicators” on TV shows such as Star Trek can apparently conjure goods, such as a fully cooked meal, out of thin air; yet the science behind such a process would not be too difficult to imagine. We have already harnessed the ability to produce energy from matter through processes such as combustion. We can envisage that, one day, we will be able to do the reverse and produce matter from energy. An inedible lump of coal could end up as a fabulous meal on your dining table. All of this is far outside of our present competence (and even our comprehension), but so too were most of the goods that we enjoy today outside of the grasp of prior generations.Such a circumstance is not limited to a relatively abundant resource such as water. The entire world, right from the depths of the core of the Earth all the way up to the stratosphere is densely packed with matter in various states. Our labour has only ever been able to harness a mere fraction of these resources, mostly skimmed from the Earth’s crust. As time goes on, however, with population increasing and, with it, capital accumulation and the widening of the division of labour, we harness the ability to transform more and more of this matter into useful goods. Hence, mines and oil fields that were once too costly to drill are now drilled (and, indeed, are more productive than the most productive fields of yesteryear); such mines could eventually reach depths of miles rather feet; and valuable elements can now be extracted from more complex ores. Even today, seawater contains traces of elements such as gold which, in their totality, amount to a far greater quantity than all of that ever mined from beneath the land – 20 million tons compared to 175,000 tons respectively. Yet the quantity and power of our labour are currently insufficient to take advantage of this fact.Moreover, technological progress allows us to use resources more efficiently so that we can produce the same outcome with fewer or cheaper commodities. The first computers, for instance, were so big that they had to be housed in their own special rooms, whereas the infinitely more powerful smartphones can fit into your hand. The internal combustion engine is smaller and more efficient than the steam engine, and modern car engines more efficient than those of several decades ago. Communications have been improved by the displacement of copper wire by optic fibres. And so on.

None of this means to say that, theoretically, general population numbers can never become a problem – merely that a) we are currently so far from this point that “overpopulation” cannot be indicted for the charges that are laid against it, and b) the free market already contains mechanisms with which to deal with it so that any state “remedies” are unnecessary. Even the notion that we may one day run out of land space and end up crowding into tower blocks is likely to be unfounded. Apart from the fact that states already withhold vast tracts of land from private settlement, we may, one day, be able to manufacture land artificially or endow barren areas such as the Sahara desert with lush fertility. Eventually we could develop the technology to travel beyond our world and cultivate civilisations on other planets. If we were to reach that point then the infinite vastness of the universe ridicules the notion that humanity could ever be profligate enough to saturate it with a crowd.

State Interference

Unfortunately, overpopulation can become a serious problem (or at least give the appearance of it) as a result of state interference in the economy.

State meddling with pricing, profit and loss is one aspect that can serve to create shortages of goods in local markets. Indeed, even if there was a fixed (or otherwise relatively limited) pool of resources that everyone had to share we couldn’t pin the blame for shortages on such a fact. In a free society, a particular good might be very expensive but it should never be the case that it cannot be found at all. As we noted earlier, if population increases then the prices of resources would rise, choking off demand for their least valuable uses and thus preserving some supply for the most urgent uses. Shortages, rather, are the result of state price controls that create the illusion of abundance without the reality by trying to make goods more “affordable”. If prices are made artificially low, then the supply is decimated by the swollen demand while any incentive for suppliers to produce more is obliterated, leading to the spectre of empty shelves in the shops and swathes of hungry mouths that cannot find food.

The socialisation (or quasi-socialisation) of industries is a case in point. For instance, Britain’s decrepit healthcare, energy and transport systems are bursting at the seams as a result of bloated demand and increasing costs. Making these things “free” or subsidising their true cost with taxpayer funds has the double effect of swelling consumption demand while saddling the industries with inefficiency in furnishing supply. Moreover, taxing the productive citizenry reduces the incentive to produce so that even the producers become less productive than they ordinarily would be, while consumption becomes more attractive. In other words, if you set up the economic system to make consumption as care free as possible and production as costly as possible then the excess of consumption and a deficit of production will start to give the illusion of overpopulation.That aside, however, the more serious problem is how the state creates a permanent, growing, parasitic “consumer class” while, at the same time, making it more difficult for people to produce so that this consumption can be met. As we noted above, additional consumption demand represented by an increasing population serves to increase wealth provided that the additional population are also producers, and will therefore act so as to widen the division of labour and the accumulation of capital goods. The state, however, employs various mechanisms that allow people to consume (and to swell their consumption) regardless of whether or not they are a producer. Indeed, the state itself can only ever consume. One way or another, every pound of its funding must be siphoned violently from private citizens, not from offering a useful good or service that people actually want to buy. The bigger the state, therefore, the greater will be the rate of consumption relative to production.

But the state goes one step further than simply changing the habits of a static population – it also causes increases in the number of consumers. For instance, the state will pay its citizens to produce babies when the parents do not have the financial wherewithal to raise them, while an increasing immigrant population today is induced less by the freedom to pursue one’s own goals and to better one’s own life for oneself through hard work and productivity, and more by the generosity of western welfare states. So the state actually causes a rise in population numbers that contribute heartily to consumption but very little by way of production.

The eventual result of this is that the state begins to look on its citizens as pests and parasites, wanton consumers of precious resources that are desperately running out. Yet the problem is not with resources; rather the problem is with the ability of the state to swell the ranks of consumers and its inability to increase the power of labour, together with its incessant stifling of anyone else who tries to do so. Every additional person who is born in the world is another mouth to feed, another person who will demand the consumption of resources. Yet that person could also be a producer who will widen the division of labour and help to grow the capital stock. The state succeeds only in breeding the consumer in a man while totally destroying in him the producer.

Turning to a related aspect, the fact that whole continents, such as Africa, are mired in poverty has nothing to do with the allegation that the richer countries refuse to “share” their wealth. If the richer countries did not have their wealth it would not mean that poorer countries would have more – the wealth simply would not have been produced in the first place. Indeed, whatever wealth that does exist in poorer countries is often the result of Western enterprise or outright gift. These places do not lack resources; rather, they lack the institutions of private property and voluntary exchange that enable capitalism and the division of labour to flourish, and with them a greater command of labour over resources. Indeed, many of these countries are proceeding down the wrong path by setting up welfare states, trade unions and Keynesian economic (mis)management overseen by democratic institutions which are, of course, the very things that are destroying the standard of living in the West. The West achieved its greatest accomplishments in a pre-democratic, pre-welfare state and pre-unionised age before Marxism and socialism succeeded in leading the onslaught against capitalism and private property.

As we said earlier, the illusion of overpopulation is exacerbated today by fanatics in the environmentalist movement. Apart from their interference in one of the most crucial markets for capital accumulation – the production of energy – the fundamentals of their philosophy view the Earth as inherently beautiful and sacred, and any of humanity’s attempts to exploit it as sacrilege. Their interest is not in any kind of “sustainable” human prosperity but in reducing these stupid, dirty, polluting, and wantonly consuming human beings as much as possible regardless. Given the influence that this movement holds it is no small wonder that such thinking permeates into more mainstream views.

That aside, however, we can conclude from what we have learnt here that that overpopulation is not a fundamental economic problem, and that humans need not fear increases in their population numbers. Rather, increasing population is only an apparent problem in a society that is hampered by state intervention and the stifling of private property rights, the division of labour and capital accumulation. What people should fear, therefore, is their state turning additional people into spoon fed eaters with shackled hands – consumers who cannot produce. It is this fact that puts a very real pressure of resources. It is, therefore, not overpopulation that is the real problem but, rather, “over-government”.

Notes

1Murray N Rothbard, Government and Hurricane Hugo: A Deadly Combination, Llewellyn H Rockwell (ed.), The Economics of Liberty, Ludwig von Mises Institute (1990), 138.

2For a critical examination of the focus on geographical and environmental explanations for overpopulation and societal collapse (compared to the relatively neglected role of property rights and monetary exchange), see John Brätland, An Austrian Reexamination of Recent Thoughts on the Rise and Collapse of Societies, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Volume 22 (2010), 65-98.

3It is possible, of course, that people could prefer to keep on having more children in spite of the rising cost. But this would indicate only their preference for the company of children to the enjoyment of more resources for themselves, and there is no particular reason why we should complain if people make such a choice. Enduring poverty with company may be preferable to loneliness in abundance.

4Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, The Scholars’ Edition, Ludwig von Mises Institute (1998), 669-70.

5In fact, the sea remains one of the greatest untapped resources available to us. Unlike private land settlement, which led to a prosperous agriculture and exploitation of the land, states have pretty much closed off areas of the sea to the possibility of settlement. This has prevented the development of a full-fledged aquaculture, robbing us of the ability to exploit this wonderful gift of nature.

 

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