Scarcity Is A Bad Thing, So Why Would You Want To Artificially Add Scarcity?

from the think-this-through dept

If there were no such thing as scarcity in the world, there wouldn't be a need for property rights, because there would be no borders to worry about. The entire reason why we worry about property and ownership and borders and allocation is because these things are scarce and we're concerned about the most efficient way to split up those scarce resources, without having too many arguments over who controls what scarce bit. If there were no scarcity, everyone could have whatever they wanted, and there would be no reason to worry about the rest. That's why I've never quite understood the rush to create artificial scarcity, as in the scarcity created by intellectual property laws.

It's a situation where you have the opposite of scarcity. You have abundance, such that there need not be any argument over ownership, because everyone can have what they want... and suddenly people want to take away the good thing (abundance!) and replace it with limits and a situation that is worse for everyone. Why would you ever do that, unless you either don't understand economics or you dislike mankind and would prefer that the world have fewer resources and more arguments over ownership.

Apparently, some others feel the same way. Derek Reed points to an amusing quote in a post by Tycho over at Penny Arcade concerning Sony's Playstation Home:
"Chief among these bizarre maneuvers is the idea that, when manufacturing their flimsy dystopia, they actually ported the pernicious notion of scarcity from our world into their digital one. This is like having the ability to shape being from non-being at the subatomic level, and the first thing you decide to make is AIDS."
While an extreme quote, he's making an important point. If you are creating a new world, where unfortunate and damaging resource limitations of other worlds wouldn't be necessary, why would you arbitrarily add those limitations back in? Why would you arbitrarily shrink the resource pool?

Filed Under: abundance, scarcity


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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 19 Dec 2008 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    I agree whole heartedly - as least with respect to Mr. Masnick's intellectual property. Mr. Masnick, please make available, on the internet, all of the intellectual property for which you have every charged a client.

    Nice strawman. Misunderstanding both what we do and what we say in a SINGLE sentence.

    We do not hoard any information. We do not sell any information. Everything we provide clients they are free to do whatever they want with.

    We sell the ability to *create* new content -- which is a scarce good. We do not sell any infinite goods.

    I am sure I misunderstand to some extent, but I believe you produce some sort of business plans for companies that pay for your consulting services.

    No. You don't misunderstand to some extent, you misunderstand entirely. But why let that stop you.

    We sell the ability to create insights from a variety of smart people, which companies are then free to do what they want with that insight. We do not resell any infinite good. We do not hoard any infinite good. We do not sell "consulting services."

    Please, let's not have that information remain scarce

    It's not scarce.

    They can them transform your work, adapt it to their own use. Society wins when information doesn't remain scarce.

    Yes, and that's exactly what's happening. Have you seen the content that we've produced showing up on sites from IBM, Dell, Intel, American Express, Dow Jones and many other sites? They're taking the content our community has created for them and made them open and available to everyone.

    If you find you can no longer make as much money offering consulting services

    We don't offer consulting services. Is reading comprehension THAT difficult?

    because your intellectual property no longer (artificially) remains a scarce good

    We don't sell intellectual property.

    You can sell T-shirts, or autographed album covers. After all, isn't it ridiculous for anyone, these days, to think their business model should rely on information that should be given away for free?

    Yes, it is ridiculous. That's why we don't do that.

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