Barrett=Bulletin31 - ARTICLE The Economics of Gods Creation...

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S PRING 1998 4 ARTICLE Christopher B. Barrett is associate professor of econom- ics, Utah State University. John C. Bergstrom is professor of econom- ics, University of Georgia. Seniority of author- ship is shared equally. Barrett's work was supported by a grant from the Pew Evangelical Scholars Program. Any remaining errors are ours alone. A UTHORS B The Economics of God’s Creation A UTHORS ’ N OTE y God and for God all things were created, in heaven and on earth, seen and unseen. As proclaimed in the Nicene Creed, many Christians consider these truths central to the faith. Thus, creation is the cosmos of John 3:16 and should be of first-order interest to Christians. We are stewards of God’s creation. Meanwhile, it is now widely recog- nized that change in the natural environment can have an impact on the economy and that economic activity likewise commonly affects the bio- sphere. Over the last generation economists have thus begun paying con- siderably greater attention to questions of environmental valuation and management. The economics of God’s creation is therefore of increasingly general interest to Christian economists. In this paper, we consider an incomplete sample of major topics ex- plored in the field of environmental-resource-ecological economics (EREE). This brief review is meant to familiarize the nonspecialist with some, although by no means all, basic points of the EREE literature, framed so as to highlight issues and relationships of fundamental concern to Christians. We try also to note the major contributions of Christian economists known to us, although our ignorance of the religious convictions of most of the many economists writing on these topics condemn our efforts to be incom- plete. The reader seeking more complete and detailed treatment is advised to consult any of several good, recent texts and survey papers in the EREE field (Costanza et al. 1997; Cropper and Oates 1992; Freeman 1993; Hanley et al. 1997; Oates 1992; Pearce and Turner 1990). Environmental-Resource-Ecological Economics A common question among people from outside the field is what is the difference between environmental, resource and ecological economics? This question offers a good place to begin, for the subtle differences be- tween these highly interrelated literatures help us to distinguish among core subjects. The environmental economics literature concentrates prima- rily on two topics: the control of environmental externalities such as pollu- tion and, relatedly, the valuation of environmental amenities that are at least partly nonrival, nonexcludable or subject to uncertainty. Environmen- tal economics thus rests heavily on the theory of externalities, and its © Association of Christian Economists
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B ULLETIN ARTICLE 5 offshoots: cost-benefit analysis and opti- mal regulation. Resource economics concerns the optimal intertemporal management of renewable (e.g., forests, fisheries, wildlife) and nonrenewable (e.g., hydrocarbons and minerals) exhaustible resources. Resource economics tends to be closely related to population ecology and
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