Michael Pollan and Science Fiction
I noticed the following passage in Michael Pollan's complaint about Big Organic:
Big supermarkets want to do business only with big farmers growing lots of the same thing, not because big monoculture farms are any more efficient (they aren't) but because it's easier to buy all your carrots from a single megafarm than to contract with hundreds of smaller growers. The "transaction costs" are lower, even when the price and the quality are the same. This is just one of the many ways in which the logic of industrial capitalism and the logic of biology on a farm come into conflict. At least in the short run, the logic of capitalism usually prevails.This reminded me of a common assumption by science-fiction fans discussing the economic of space travel: that natural resources are the only important costs. This leads to calculations showing that asteroid exploitation, SPS, etc. will yield more resources out than were put in. (“It's raining soup…,” as the saying goes) This, in turn, is followed by yelling at businessmen for short-sightedly refusing to invest.
In the real world (sigh), labor (including transaction costs) and capital costs also count.