536 PART NINE THE REAL ECONOMY IN THE LONG RUN CASE STUDY ARE NATURAL RESOURCES A LIMIT TO GROWTH? The world’s population is far larger today than it was a century ago, and many people are enjoying a much higher standard of living. A perennial debate con-cerns whether this growth in population and living standards can continue in the future. Many commentators have argued that natural resources provide a limit to how much the world’s economies can grow. At first, this argument might seem hard to ignore. If the world has only a fixed supply of nonrenewable natural resources, how can population, production, and living standards continue to grow over time? Eventually, won’t supplies of oil and minerals start to run out? When these shortages start to occur, won’t they stop economic growth and, per-haps, even force living standards to fall? Despite the apparent appeal of such arguments, most economists are less concerned about such limits to growth than one might guess. They argue that
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