A magazine article cited, as one reason for improving safety in the home and reducing deaths and injuries to children, the argument that the deaths and injuries were a cost to the nation because of the loss of “production” of goods and services which those children, had they become healthy adults, would have accomplished in their lifetime.
The loss or damage to the children was thus seen as an economic “cost” to the nation which made it “poorer” than it could have been.
Taking the greatest care of children is a duty and a joy and needs no further justification. But the fact is that what those unfortunates would have achieved would have been throughput, not production, of wealth. A person’s whole life is a process of consumption, not accumulation of wealth.
In economic terms, the tragic loss of those children actually represents a saving, due to less throughput and slower depletion of wealth. This comes back to the point that people are agents of wealth throughput, not creators of wealth. The goods and services not structured by the children who were never able to take their place in the work force are not irretrievably lost; the wealth that would have gone into them is still there and may be made into goods and services later on. It is not a case of a great pile of human-created wealth being everlastingly smaller that it might have been had those children lived a normal working life.
The article’s argument is based on the misconception that people are a resource which may be harnessed to greater or less effect to create wealth. A nation with a greater population is assumed to be actually or potentially a wealthier nation.
In fact, people and their economic systems are part of the total ecosystem, a part that draws its activity from throughputting the other parts and depends on their size and health for its activity. More people, more throughput, eventually depletes the other parts, reducing the activity of the human component. There must be a limit to the human population consistent with the limits of the other parts of the ecosystem. There may be arguments as to what the limit should be, and one determinant is the level of world economic activity which it is desired to sustain. But there must be a limit.
More in relation to this subject will be said in a post “Stabilising the Human Population”. The concept of cost also requires further definition and analysis and this will take place in a post “Costs – What Really Costs Us and What Doesn’t?”.
Incoming search terms:
Human population or economic wealth;
Posts in this Series
- Review of 1988 edition of Economics for a Round Earth
- Ends and Means
- Evolution Not Revolution
- Notes on Evolution Not Revolution
- Concepts and Terms – What is ‘wealth’?
- The Throughput Chain
- The Derivatives of Wealth
- Global Inequalities in Wealth
- Economic Growth Redefined
- Misconceptions in Practice
- Borrowing to Invest to Get Rich
- Environment versus Economic Progress
- Digression: Pollution Red Herrings
- Digression: Depletion and Inflation
- Value Inflation – the Trigger, not the Bullet
- Living Standard and Quality of Life
- Digression: Resource Consumption, Jobs, and Hands Off
- When the Boom comes
- The Effect of People’s Expectations
- Hard Work – Virtue or Vice?
- Who needs the Snail Darter?
- More Dollars for Conservation?
- Non-renewable Resources – Leave Them in the Ground?
- Digression: Fast Breeder Nuclear Fission Reactors
- Minerals in National Parks – Leave Them in the Ground?
- Population and Wealth
- Left, Right and The Environment
- Digression: “So Long As We Profit, Costs Elsewhere Aren’t Our Problem”?
- Limits to Growth?
- Solar Energy – a Special Case
- The Solar-Powered Car
- Money Supply, Throughput and Inflation
- Real and Money Wages: Living Standards
- Digression: Caution about “Increases” and “Decreases”
- The Idea of Proportionate Flows Applied to Wages: the Great Depression
- Deficit Financing
- The Optimum Proportionate Flow Condition
- Digression: Thrift versus Spendthrift
- Digression: the Private Motor Car – a Basic Necessity?
- The Idea of Proportionate Flows Applied to Wages – the Stagflation of the 1970’s and 80’s
- Excessive Wages Can Cost Jobs
- Fight Unemployment or Inflation First?
- Digression: Work and Jobs
- Other “Job Creation” Schemes
- Visual and Noise Pollution
- Digression: Renewal and Recycling of Resources; Wages and Jobs
- Ratio Distortion and Consumption
- Aggregate Demand – Components and Internal Ratio
- The Slave Economy
- Employment and the Steady State
- Consumer-Led Recovery
- Interest Rates and Ratio Distortion
- Demographic Trends and Living Standards
- Digression: Bad Economics Good for Conservation?
- Coping with Aging Populations
- Stabilising the Human Population
- Costs – What Really Costs Us and What Doesn’t?
- Digression: Other Comments on Statements in UN Report
- Discussion of Costs Resumed
- Budget Balancing Methods – Cost or Gain?
- Digression: Government Expenditure – Government Employees
- Expenditure on Weapons