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Increasing Returns and the Genesis of American Resource Abundance

  • David, Paul A
  • Wright, Gavin

The USA became the world's leading mineral-producing nation between 1870 and 1910, a development paralleled by the rising resource-intensity of American manufacturing. This paper challenges the premise that resource abundance simply reflected the country's geological endowment of mineral deposits. Instead, in the century following 1850 the USA exploited its natural resource potentials to a far greater extent than other countries, and did so across virtually the entire range of industrial minerals. The paper argues that "natural resource abundance" was an endogenous, "socially constructed" condition that was not geologically preordained. It examines the complex legal, institutional, technological and organizational adaptations that shaped the US supply-responses to the expanding domestic and international industrial demands for minerals and mineral products. It suggests that strong "positive feedbacks"--even in the exploitation of depletable resources--were responsible for the explosive growth of the American minerals economy. Copyright 1997 by Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Industrial & Corporate Change.

Volume (Year): 6 (1997)
Issue (Month): 2 (March)
Pages: 203-45

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Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:6:y:1997:i:2:p:203-45
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