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01 September 2003 @ 10:26 pm
The economics of scarcity  
The classical concept of scarcity is unlimited wants vs. limited resources. That people's wants are unlimited but the means to satisfy those wants are not. There are two flavors of limitation that create scarcity – external limitation which is a hard ceiling on the amount of a resource available (ex. oil), and internal, or 'man-made', limitations where there may be a sufficient amount of the resource in question but it is unevenly distributed or badly managed (ex. food).

Scarcity exists in closed economic systems. And other systems as well, but I'll get to that later. Scarcity can be alleviated in a couple of ways. Increasing the supply of goods and services will do so, as will improving the apportionment of the resources in question.

Markets (are supposed to) regulate scarcity by storing information about consumer's wants and needs and harmonize the supply and demand thereof. In economic systems they accomplish this through the price mechanism. Money therefore acts as both a vital unit of information and conductor of the price signal. As we've all experienced, increasing scarcity leads to higher prices. If a resource is freely available, then it (supposedly) has no value. Keep in mind that price is merely an indicator of the market value of an asset, and that resources can have non-monetary value.

Scarcity and markets are intimately intermingled, for markets would be completely unnecessary in the absence of scarcity. Then it would be like living in Star Trek, where money didn't exist and one only had to ask for what they wanted. Nice place – maybe we should all go there…

So, why do we fear scarcity? Some of us fear it because we have known times of deprivation. We fear it based on having suffered it. Generally we thing about it in terms of money but we are also exposed to scarcity of natural resources, such as oil and natural gas, as well.

So I said all that, so I could say this…

But how many of us fear scarcity because we've suffered not a lack of material resources, but emotional ones? Love, caring, nurturing, friendship? Security? Respect? To feel important somehow? What happens when one doesn't get those sorts of things? Just as one can hoard physical things, so can we 'hoard' our time, our energy, our emotions.

Scarcity applies to several non-monetary things in life that affect us, most notably time, love, understanding, and respect.

Are all these things really finite? Do we have to settle for internal limitations on these precious resources, or can more be created? Can they be managed better?

Is time more than just a commodity, but a sign of worth as well? How are we supposed to measure the worth of love?

This concludes the randomly geeky interlude for the day. We now return you to your regular programming…

-the redhead-
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-the redhead-theredhead on September 2nd, 2003 02:32 pm (UTC)
Hm. A central question here is where do we get these items? If we rely on other people to provide feelings of love/worth/respect/feeling important, then we might be disappointed. Because other people cannot always provide these things, and people are damn fickle when it all comes down to it.

Yes, people are fickle. Self worth is an issue, and I think it is definitely wrong to expect others to provide *all* of that. On the other hand, show me a person who happily exists without any external input of those things – I want to take lessons!! And I can think of a few Skinnerites who would be *very* interested…

However if we get them from the inside, from an understanding of our own self worth then we can never run out. And the game goes from being one of give and take to one of give and give.

…and give and give and give and get nothing back to fill your own well? Yah, I've played that particular game and in my experience it just doesn't work. In the end, crumbs are just that.

Frankly, it's not at all unreasonable to have wants or needs. I don't know of a single *completely* altruistic person in the real world. Again, self worth is an important thing, but no reason to pour all of the aforementioned things into a black hole either, as I'm sure you are familiar.

Time can be managed; it cannot be created. Respect, love, and understanding by themselves or in combination tend to be non-zero sum. Thus the more respect you have the more you give, the more you get. The more love you have, the more you give, the more you get.

Yes, but there is still a point beyond which the giving with no return is… stupid. Pointless. Counterproductive. As for being non-zero sum, that is not always hold true - it depends upon the people involved.

But it has to be a two way street otherwise it drops to the minimum values (defect/defect). If respect/love/understanding are based on time, then they become items that cannot be created and they become subordinate to the time limitations.

I never said they are based on time, but time *is* a part of the equation, nonetheless. I do not believe that each can be wholly separated from the others in the vast majority of the cases.

Personally, I think that managing time is the most difficult part of a poly relationship. And when it is a long distance poly relationship, becomes even tougher. I have seen this work (one of my friends sees her LDR lover every other month at least) but everyone has a different set of limitations and conditions.

Yes, everyone does. And everyone has a different set of needs, wants, and desires as well. I guess the best method is to find people who's needs, wants, and desires mesh with one's own and not bother with those who's ideas of the same are so radically different as to be completely incompatible. Balance is the key, give and take, understanding that not everyone lives in your little world. Or maybe the trick is to merely give only the same effort as the other person(s) are willing to give.

I don't believe that time is a measure of worth per se; time is time. However how that time is spent, can serve as an indication of the underlying worth.

I disagree. I think it is just as legitimate a measure of worth as money is a measure of value. No, it's not perfect, but it is a strong indicator.

I do not believe that quantity equals quality. How much time I spend with someone is not as important as how that time is spent.

ah, by that measure no time spent can be completely equated with a great deal of time spent, with stops at an infinite number of places along the continuum as long is the time is spent in some 'valuable' manner. Yes, the value of that time given is determined by the recipient to an extent – generously giving water to a drowning man doesn't do much for him. Nor does it address that there are thresholds below which time spent isn't constructive or valuable. Speed dating, anyone?

-the redhead-
Musings from the CZ unitcz_unit on September 2nd, 2003 05:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, people are fickle. Self worth is an issue, and I think it is definitely wrong to expect others to provide *all* of that. On the other hand, show me a person who happily exists without any external input of those things – I want to take lessons!! And I can think of a few Skinnerites who would be *very* interested…

Look up acetics :-) Seriously, there are people who do work with very little outside input. The key here of course is the measure of degree; some people require a lot more than others.


…and give and give and give and get nothing back to fill your own well? Yah, I've played that particular game and in my experience it just doesn't work. In the end, crumbs are just that.

That doesn't work. However the big question is how much do you need to fill your own well, and how much do you spend trying to fill other people's wells.

Some people have wells with serious cracks in the bottom; they need a lot of water. Fact of life.

And of course there is no reason to pour water into totally broken wells. I have known a number of people who were basically running on the love and support of others. Not something I can take on.

Yes, but there is still a point beyond which the giving with no return is… stupid. Pointless. Counterproductive. As for being non-zero sum, that is not always hold true - it depends upon the people involved.

Non zero sum games can have lousy payoffs too. Witness the always nice strategy in prisoner's dillema or always cooperate in the commons.

I guess the best method is to find people who's needs, wants, and desires mesh with one's own and not bother with those who's ideas of the same are so radically different as to be completely incompatible

Yup, that seems to work best.

I disagree. I think it is just as legitimate a measure of worth as money is a measure of value. No, it's not perfect, but it is a strong indicator.

Can't agree with you here. Some money has more value than others. These monies are with govts who put worth into every dollar as opposed to printing cheap paper money.

You can spend a lot of money for a lousy car. You can invest a lot of time into a relationship and still not be contributing the important elements. I've seen that too much with couples confusing time and talking with intimacy and communication.

h, by that measure no time spent can be completely equated with a great deal of time spent, with stops at an infinite number of places along the continuum as long is the time is spent in some 'valuable' manner. Yes, the value of that time given is determined by the recipient to an extent – generously giving water to a drowning man doesn't do much for him. Nor does it address that there are thresholds below which time spent isn't constructive or valuable. Speed dating, anyone?

No, those are absolutes. And technically they would cancel each other out, kind of like dropping infinities.

In the real world, for me, an afternoon walking in the park is worth far more than a weekend of "processing" that goes nowhere.

But that's different for everyone, I am sure.

CZ
-the redhead-theredhead on September 2nd, 2003 07:19 pm (UTC)
That doesn't work. However the big question is how much do you need to fill your own well, and how much do you spend trying to fill other people's wells.

Yes, that is the question. An important thing is to not spend so much time filling others wells that one neglects their own. Balance, again.

Some people have wells with serious cracks in the bottom; they need a lot of water. Fact of life.

Yes, and I am well aware of that. No pun intended…

*** I guess the best method is to find people who's needs, wants, and desires mesh with one's own and not bother with those who's ideas of the same are so radically different as to be completely incompatible

Yup, that seems to work best.

The difficulty lies in identifying those people, and not bring fooled by a good line or their brand of logic. And, perhaps, recognizing true problems from the outset (deceptions, being mislead, things not being what one is told) instead of rationalizing them away because one wants to. One must be perceptive and skeptical instead of blind and trusting. Rational instead of illogical.

These monies are with govts who put worth into every dollar as opposed to printing cheap paper money.

But money, as an entire concept, is still an indicator of value. Yes, some money is worth more than others, just as some kinds of time are worth more than other kinds of time.

You can invest a lot of time into a relationship and still not be contributing the important elements.

Exactly. Because there are different kinds of time.

No, those are absolutes. And technically they would cancel each other out, kind of like dropping infinities.

I guess you missed this part ' with stops at an infinite number of places along the continuum

In the real world, for me, an afternoon walking in the park is worth far more than a weekend of "processing" that goes nowhere.

But that's different for everyone, I am sure.


Yes, it is. In my world physical presence is inexpressibly more valuable than impersonal, intransient words on a screen. Actually, I think that is true in most people's worlds.

-the redhead-
...who knows that while ascetics require little in the way of normal human contact, neither do they give such either...
Musings from the CZ unitcz_unit on September 2nd, 2003 07:29 pm (UTC)
Exactly. Because there are different kinds of time.

Right! Time does not equal value. And a lesser amount of some time is worth a lot more than a greater amount of another time.

Yes, it is. In my world physical presence is inexpressibly more valuable than impersonal, intransient words on a screen. Actually, I think that is true in most people's worlds.

Didn't mention words on a screen, but I get your point. In my world, feelings and communication help to bridge the (sometimes long) periods of time when I can't be with someone. Face time is good; snuggle/fuck time is good; time to be is very good.

But in this case, that is the kind of relationship you should seek. One with a lot of time for you, and a lot of ability to meet/be.

CZ