Ah, Sartean philosophy!
When you say scarcity you need to be specific. For instance it's very likely there is enough food and water (which are
both renewable) the world-over, at this point, to sustain all people regardless of famine and / or drought.
On the other hand there are very real limits on various metals that exist on earth.
In economics scarcity is a condition that exists when current resources are inadequate to provide for all of peoples wants. As supply decreases and
demand increases, costs increase. Therefore those with the deepest pockets have access to scarcer resources than those with less. Hence, inherent in
scarcity, and therefore economics, is a nominalist class system.
This economic definition of scarcity is deeply rooted in the Sartrean ontological view of scarcity. Quoting Elizabeth Bowman and Robert Stone's
summary of a 1965 Cornell lecture on "Satre's Morality and History,"
Life in the biological sense can either be an imperative, a value, or a good, depending on the social class of the agent. For the unfavored, life
is a fundamental exigency, an imperative. For the middle class, it is a value to be produced and reproduced. For the privileged, it is a good that is
automatically preserved by the labor of others and, as such, is a means for realizing other supposedly more worthy norms.
This explanation for how we behave at a very fundamental level translates very neatly in to socio-economic strata: those that have access to
everything they desire; those that compete for the remainder; and others who get little to nothing.
This is why economics, very fundamentally, encapsulates moral reasoning.
Put another way when demand is sufficiently high and a resource, R, approaches 0 the money involved to acquire the resource conversely approaches the
ceiling, M_c. Meaning if there are 3 people in the world, 1 seller (P_0), and 2 buyers each with equal sums of cash (P_1 = P_2), money would no longer
determine who gets the resource as there would no longer be a monetary inequality. (ie/ R = M_c; and, M_c = P_1 = P_2). The person receiving the item
would either be randomly drawn in a lottery, selected due to favoritism, picked based on a majority vote, or given the item based on the moral-code of
the community; to wit, modes of moral reasoning.
To go one step further lets say the resource is a single unit of food during a famine. A few methods to rationalize who to allocate the meal to is to
choose the person best likely to keep the group alive, the person who hunts / forages, or the person who most needs sustenance.
Introduce a fourth person (P_3) and two of the three can now increase their odds to acquire the resource by using their greater purchasing power to
collectively buy the item. (P_1 + P_2 > P_3) or (P_2 + P_3 > P_1), et cetera. Thus in effect two people out-purchase another not because they're
individually more capable or deserving but because they came up with a way to game the system.
This predicates a moral dilemma. Should an unregulated monetary system
human value judgments
on issues that affect the entire group? Thus economics, especially
as it relates to scarcity, implies a theory of moral reasoning or at the very least provides an excuse to circumvent and ignore moral reasoning.
It also suggest that if two people ally themselves, as in the above example, that they'll almost always hold the majority position and therefore
acquire any sufficiently scarce resource. Again clearly scarcity implies a class system and therefore a mode of, hopefully, sound moral judgment to
determine who falls where in the structure.
As described by Leach, "In a class system social status and economic security go together." (Leach 1960: 6)
Many people feel that a meritocracy solves these human problems in a fair way for all people.
I wouldn't advocate meritocracy in its pure form (IQ + effort = merit), because if soil creates castes, the machine manufactures classes – classes
to which people can be assigned by their achievement or ascribed by wealth at birth.
Put in less poetic terms, in the here-and-now of the 21st century "wealth at birth," still largely determines social status. In switching to a pure
meritocracy we would exchange one class system for another. One where those who are the smartest and strongest percolate to the top; a lower tier of
people who are middling in talent; and a bottom tier of those who, whether through personal fault or because of genetic disposition, find themselves
licking the boot-heels of the upper echelons of society.
When I say "the machine manufactures classes" I mean that we as humans fall in to social classes because as a group we collectively, though perhaps
unconsciously, promote societal stratification. I suspect this is in no small part due to the marriage of scarcity with a mode of moral reasoning –
particularly cultural value-systems. For example in the past humanity strongly believed in theocracy. Thus our ancestors lavished monies on religious
authorities and places of worship. Later humanity chose to believe that certain people were blessed by deities or felt that certain individuals were
greater than the common man. So the proletariat gave an inordinate amount of public wealth to kings and queens. Now we have a society that votes
people in to position based on popularism. Thusly we throw money at celebrities and politicians.
Like any class-based system where social class is strictly defined, a meritocracy can just as easily be a dystopia as it can a utopia (ie/ read
Michael Young's, Rise of the Meritocracy
This is why I'm trying to convey the importance of how economics, not just politics, underpins societal striation.
[edit on 31-5-2009 by Xtraeme]