Two and a half centuries ago, early economists in France postulated that all wealth springs from the earth: farming, timber harvest, mining, and fishing were the sole sources of value, value that then circulated throughout the rest of the economy. It was not a coincidence that the ruling landed gentry who controlled the dominant resource, agricultural land, supported this theory. In England, at about the same time, a different theory dominated: All wealth results from exports that bring in the outside income that circulates through the economy. It was not a coincidence that the rising commercial trading class strongly supported that theory.
Economics as we know it, starting with Adam Smith, developed as a critical attack on such self-serving narrow conceptions of the “origins of the wealth of nations.” But two and a half centuries later we still have self-interested parties flogging these theories rather than treating them as long discredited and abandoned historical curiosities. The Urban Futures, Inc. consulting group’s “Regions and Resources: The Foundations of British Columbia’s Economic Base” is the latest example. It argues that ... Read more