Resource depletion and elasticity
I watched the Crash Course for the second time recently, now that I have time to really think about it. It has a lot of great ideas, but I came away with one big question.
In the Crash Course, cmartenson clearly makes the case that resources like copper and oil will be more expensive in the future. The open question is what impact that will have. There is a non-linear relationship between the cost of a material and the cost of goods and services produced. People use lots of copper and oil because lots of copper and oil are cheap. If something is abundant and cheap, there is great advantage in finding uses for it. Think George Washington Carver and peanuts. If something becomes expensive, an incentive for replacements exists. An example is fiber optics replacing copper wires used for communication. Or technology that completely leapfrogs the old way of doing things, like wireless communications. I suspect more examples like this could be found if one tries, so my big question is:
Have cmartenson and others at PeakProsperity tried? One can't assume a static model where having less of (or more expensive) materials means the future will be smaller. How do we know that we're not fretting about having a shortage of leather for making buggy whips?
I didn't see where the Crash Course really addresses this. There is a brief mention of how we shouldn't assume that technology will just fix it, but the Crash Course makes the opposite statement without much to support it. I'd be very interested to know if cmartenson and others have thought about this.