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Do we live in a world of plenty or scarcity?

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posted on May, 31 2009 @ 12:39 AM
Over the years of reading "conspiracy" and "straight" materials both, I've come across theories that seem to be based on one of two seemingly irreconcilable worldviews. They are complete cannot believe both simultaneously.

Obviously, one is right and one is wrong. It is of critical importance to decide which one is right, because in a sense all flows from this foundation. I will outline them as follows. Note that both can support conspiracy theories and the concept of hidden power grabs. But the motivations and structures of the proposed conspiracies will differ depending on which one you believe in.

VIEW ONE: The world has a scarcity of resources and only so much "stuff" to go around. "Stuff" here could mean food, fuel, important industrial resources like metals, or any and all of the above. Conspiracy theories based in this worldview see powerful players jockying for positions to gain as much as possible of this shrinking resource base.

VIEW TWO: There is plenty of stuff, more than enough to go around. The world could easily support everyone alive and a great deal of future growth. Conspiracy theories based in this worldview see a powerful group or groups of players trying to create the illusion of need to manipulate the rest of us and make their own holdings more valuable. Ideas like scarcity, environmental decline, and/or global warming are cruel hoaxes designed to befuddle the masses and take from their pockets or extend government power over private life through regulations designed to fix these fake "problems."

SO, in this thread I'm interested in hearing which one of these worldviews you subscribe to. Please tell us WHY you believe in the one you do...what have you read/seen/experienced that makes you feel the way you believe you do?

In the interests of fairness and objectivity, I refuse to disclose my own views on the subject, by the way.

posted on May, 31 2009 @ 12:53 AM
I would have to pick view 2.

I watched part of a car auction tonight on television. Some of the old cars sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Two week ago I watched farmers in Florida destroying acres and acres of tomato fields because of they could not get the price they felt they needed to get due to imported tomatoes on the market.

Dairy farmers pour hundreds of gallons of milk on the ground and get paid by our government to do so.

I am very familiar with the USA and many other countries and I see a wealth of resources going to waste while people are starving to death.

Greed is our enemy.

posted on May, 31 2009 @ 01:00 AM
that's a really good question huh? i can honestly say i don't have the slightest clue.

to be part of the discussion i would say that if rescources are abundant then knowledge and accessiblity aren't. in this case the precious commodity would be infrastructure and trained personel moreso than raw materials. it's not like we're just talking about fish where all you need is a net and a fire.

if rescources are scare i would find it hard to believe that so much is being shared. why bother with all the trouble if you could just let 7 billion people rot and keep a couple 100,000? even if only 1st world countries have abundance why even bother if there wasn't enough to go around.

my guess is that resources are far in abundance of anything we could ever possibly need. it's more of a matter of being "fair and equal".

posted on May, 31 2009 @ 01:42 AM
I really can't answer your question. In some places there is plenty of what the people need. In other places there is a lack of things that are necessary. Hence, starvation and thirst.

Maybe I am just dense and don't understand the OP. This wouldn't be the first time I am clueless.

So let me just say that I believe there are enough resources for all of humankind to survive. And sharing what one peoples have in plenty with those that are in need, will result in enough for everyone. At least for now.

When I see a photo of a starving child in some out of the way country, in regards to where I live, I can't understand why it is so.

Hell, I guess I am number 2. There is plenty, if it all is shared. Plenty to go around, just some have more and some have less. and we all need to share what we have in plenty for things we might not have enough for.

Yet, I also believe we all will run short of resources soon. Ask me again in 10 years. I might change my analysis.

Like I said, sometimes I am just dense.

posted on May, 31 2009 @ 11:50 AM
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.

(source and the full article)

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 replace actual 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]

posted on May, 31 2009 @ 12:01 PM
Many people become annoyed when people suggest that some people deserve more than anyone else. One person I discussed this with before said,

You seem to be saying, and correct me if I am wrong, that some people, those who train for jobs that "have significant social benefits" should be given leeway to act in ways those who work "insignificant jobs" should not. It is classist.

I replied,

Yes my ideology is classist because all systems, meritocracy's included, fundamentally inherit the class structure as it's embedded in the very notion of scarcity.

In my opinion the only way to make things truly fair is to come to grips with this notion, to explicitly state cultural priorities, and finally confront the group(s) that will suffer under the selected belief structure.

My debating companion continued,

And, it in no way ensures that people who act honestly and responsibly are given a fair shake.

I commented,

This is why I don't buy in to the notion of a pure meritocracy. As in every society there will be people at the bottom of the food chain that still deserve basic human decency despite not fitting in to the perfect design of society's goals. In the case of a meritocracy, excellence being the ultimate goal-post, not all people should be treated in accordance with the value they contribute back to society.

I suppose the best way to express my philosophy is to say I advocate a socialized-meritocracy.


In this previous debate we were specifically debating how society should allocate its excess resources as it relates to the Great-Bailout. My opponent said,

You seem to be thinking that education and a certain job title makes you more valuable, and apparently should offer you a get out of debt free option that the uneducated does not get.

I think we should vote how we design our class system by allowing the citizens of society to determine how to allocate excess government revenue.

I feel those who are willing to go in to fields that have a greater social benefit should be rewarded and given more leniency. For the record I'm a game programmer. I don't think game programmers add much, if any, societal value. Thus I would put myself at the very bottom of the benefit pool. City planners, law enforcers, doctors, lawyers, ecologists, teachers, plumbers, sanitation engineers, etc., all of these people fill a much more integral role in my mind and therefore should be catered to, yes, disproportionately.

As a secondary means of rewarding good societal conduct I'd advocate allocating the remaining excess resource to citizenry who don't have a criminal record and those who participate in social roles, like, town hall meetings, fire-department boosters, etc.

After that I pointed out to my opponent, "you don't sound like you want a meritocracy at all, rather it sounds like you want communism." For instance my debating partner said,

YOU are the one who says that certain jobs that are currently compensated by high pay indicate that the individual holding that position has a greater value. I didnt. I remember arguing that garbage collectors and plumbers contribute as much or more to the overall health of a society as its doctors do. In essence, that the value to society of those positions are equivalent to the value provided by a doctor.

To say a garbage collector's value to society is equal to that of a doctor is either disingenuous or utterly lacking in self-evidence. This kind of assertion is specious at best because even if there were no garbage collectors I could easily travel to a dump-yard and dispose of my own trash.

A doctor and a garbage-man are only equivalent in a world with no scarcity.

Even in a utopian meritocracy – how do you create a world that gives all things to all people equally, based on energy put in to the system, and then justify asking the qualified few to commit an inordinate amount of their time on earth to perform a more demanding job (if only because less people are available to do it) while giving equal compensation to the man who disposes societies garbage?

The real crux of this whole thing and why I've mentioned everything above. The person I was debating with added:

... our compensation system is horribly broken. That the energy one puts in should be rewarded fairly. I did not say, ever, that those of higher IQ deserve more. You imply that with your education=value to society formula. I clearly stated that laborers are contributing value. Energy=/=IQ. Energy=energy. Be it physical effort, or mental effort.

I see IQ as a composite of (education + natural smarts), where education represents a persons time and energy spent studying. IQ + effort is qualitatively greater because IQ doesn't simply compliment the value of the energy or effort put in to a unit of work it amplifies it. So in terms of output the formula is (IQ * effort).

Physical labor is without question of huge social importance, but we still establish pricing and valuation based off scarcity as it relates to demand, with a small nod to cost of initial investment.

So the real question here is, what does a fair compensation system look like in a world where scarcity is unavoidable?

[edit on 31-5-2009 by Xtraeme]

posted on May, 31 2009 @ 12:02 PM
I personally think that second approach (in general) is more correct. Necessities are plenty. But if i was born in ,say, Sudan - i think that my position on this question could be totally different. And it is due to eocnomics, politics and greed.
However my "in general" condition is important. Oil is not necessity. Nor gas, nickel, wolfram, uranium, magnesium and bunch of other things that are simply power multipliers of a nation. For those real struggle is being held.
So in your pure (as presented in op) form VIEW 1 nor VIEW 2 are correct. As usual, truth is somewhere in between.

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