Digression: Other Comments on Statements in UN Report

This digression makes two further comments on the statement on weapons versus other expenditure in the UN report mentioned above. One may return to this post later and go straight on to the post “Discussion of Costs Resumed”, if desired.

The UN report statement also implies agreement with the conventional idea that economic activity is a process of accumulation of wealth. The achievement of clean air and water seems to be regarded as a permanent result of a particular episode of economic activity. In fact both resources are constantly throughput and their maintenance would therefore require continuous effort. This would involve any or all of the following: actively increasing the renewal rate of clean air and water, reducing interference with natural processes of renewal, and reducing the rate of throughput.

The other point is that the quantity of money exchange necessary to achieve something big like widespread clean water or air depends on (i) whether steps are in fact taken towards such achievement and (ii) what other economic activities are being started or suspended at the same time. Money itself does not bring into being clean air; this is done by the physical activity and resource throughput set in motion by the exchange of money.

At the same time, economic activities within an economic system are interdependent. The expansion or curtailment of one activity may boost or retard other activities.

A project like the securing of clean water supplies for less perfluent nations may be quite carefully estimated to require the exchange of a certain amount of money, but when the project is actually undertaken it may be affected by all sorts of constraints that greatly increase the amount of money required to change hands. This will arise from economic activity being directed in new ways that put pressure on a different set of resources in a different combination. This is not to say that the clean water will need more money than estimated; it is saying that resources being limited, it is always possible for money expense to be much higher than the estimates that were done on the basis of an assumption of unlimited resources. This assumption involves a linear relationship between effort and return in resource throughput. Resources being limited, ever more effort is required for resource throughput as the resource is depleted. The relation is non-linear.

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