Relevance of the Abundance of Natural Resources in U.S. Compared to Countries without Natural Resources

Historians traditionally considered abundance of natural resources as the direct cause of industrial revolution and economic success in the U.S. However, the bright example of Japan suggests that the presence or absence of natural resources is not the determining factor driving economic stability and prosperity among industrial states.

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In reality, American economic successes stretch far beyond the traditional “resource” vision, and are the direct results of the thoroughly developed approaches to exploration, research, human capital, and marketing. The mere lack or abundance of natural resources is not always the source of economic successes in particular countries; rather, the ability to combine science and exploration with talents, trade, and marketing help countries use their resource potential to the fullest, and form the basis for economic development and economic stability in international contexts.

David & Wright (1991) were the first to pay attention to the role mineral resources played in economic development; they were the first to explore whether abundance of natural resources could serve the determining factor of economic success in the U.S. The results of the thorough historic research suggest that mineral resources may significantly contribute into the quality and level of the country’s industrial development only when the country is able to fully exploit its natural resource potential. “Minerals with economic value do indeed occur unevenly across the surface of the earth, but, between 1850 and 1950, the United States exploited its resource potential to a far greater extent that other countries of the world” (David & Wright 1991, p. 2).

Abundance of mineral resources alone could hardly drive economic development in the United States; rather, the intensity of exploration, research, the quality of technologies used, and political factors have turned the American state into the international economic leader. The natural richness of the American lands has subsequently increased the weight of exports in the U.S. economy, by combining research with talented personnel and well-developed marketing techniques.

The presence or absence of mineral resources forms a whole complex of related issues that should be timely resolved to ensure that natural resources increase the effectiveness of national economic performance. The abundance of natural resources in the U.S. should be re-considered through the prism of supplementary economic successes, which drove the need for better exploration techniques and the better quality of manufactured materials.

For example, “advances in steel were in turn complementary to progress in other industries. U.S. rubber-tire makers were well behind the French during the bicycle craze of the 1890s, and only gained productivity advantage in conjunction with mass production of automobiles” (Wright 1990, p.655). As a result, the state’s ability to develop potential markets where natural resources could be effectively used determined the success of exploration procedures, and increased the relative importance of nature in driving the national economic success.

Wright and Irwin suggest that the successful combination of natural resource abundance and reliable marketing approaches formed a new system of the American exports, heavily dependent on the quality and amount of the new products which could be produced in the U.S. but were unavailable elsewhere (Wright 1990, p. 654). The American resource leadership was the direct result of the efficient combination between marketing, human capital, and science, decreasing product costs and increasing the intensiveness of exploration and use for nonrenewable natural resources (Irwin 2003, pp. 367-368).

Conclusion

Against traditional beliefs, abundance of natural resources is not the determining feature driving economic success; rather, the country’s ability to invest into exploration, research, and to combine resource abundance with effective trade and marketing strategies determine the success of economic development in international contexts. In the U.S., natural richness was successfully supplemented with effective economic, marketing, and political measures, having turned the country into the international exporting leader, and promoting the importance of complex approaches to the development and research of natural economic gifts.

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