Economists inside and outside of the Austrian-school tradition have formulated a subjectivist theory of mineral resources. While von Mises (1940) presented a rudimentary theory, institutionalist Zimmermann (1933 and after) provided an in-depth mind-centered approach distinct from the objective, neoclassical theory for minerals developed by Jevons (1865, 1866), Gray (1913), and Hotelling (1931). A full-ﬂedged Austrian theory identiﬁes the ﬁxity/depletionism view of minerals as incompatible with entrepreneurship. Mineral resourceship, praxeologically akin to manufacturing, or the making of capital goods, demotes the distinction between depletable and nondepletable resources for the sciences of human action. Instead of nonreproducibility, the interplay of geography and institutions becomes the locus of mineral-resource theory, given the nonuniform distribution of deposits. An Austrian-institutional theory is more robust for explaining changes in mineral-resource scarcity than neoclassical depletionism, and offers a wide research agenda for current debates over resource production, usage, and future availability.
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by Robert L. Bradley, Jr.