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. identicon
    BigD, 18 Dec 2008 @ 8:12am

    Why Won't Anybody Think Of The Children!

    I agree that this is one of the more hysterical posts from Mike that I've seen. We're starting down the slippery slope of equating a dissimilar mindset or ignorance of the new realities of abundance with "hating mankind" or being "damaging".

    From a pragmatic standpoint, the folks at Sony are in the business of maximizing profit. Unless I don't understand the purpose of PlayStation Home (Is it an exercise in maximizing social harmony in a digital utopia?), it is likely that they are sticking with what works for now. As much as folks like us like to spitball new business models, the marketing folks at Sony are faced with the scarcity of time and engineering resources to make PSH work.

    Why would they remove a proven economic source of revenue? More profits = more resources to do cool things. Less profits = your project gets shut down and your hard work goes out the window.

    It is also likely that they haven't figured out a way to make money from the absence of scarce real estate in an online world. Hopefully they will start experimenting with different ways. In the meantime, why would you kill one of your golden geese?

    If the concern is "damaging resource limitations", I would be curious to see what kind of damage do you could expect. In-world riots? Cybercrime? I would argue that the cost/benefit analysis for Sony would lean in favor of more revenues via traditional scarcity models. They have created *artificial* scarcity in digital real estate. They can always add more later. That is the beauty of digital resources.


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