Scarcity is the fundamental economic problem of having seemingly unlimited human wants and needs in a world of limited resources. It states that society has insufficient productive resources to fulfill all human wants and needs. Alternatively, scarcity implies that not all of society's goals can be pursued at the same time; trade-offs are made of one good against others. In an influential 1932 essay, Lionel Robbins defined economics as "the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses."
Scarcity in Economics 
Goods (and services) that are scarce are called economic goods (or simply goods if their scarcity is presumed). Other goods are called free goods if they are desired but in such abundance that they are not scarce, such as air and seawater.
Economists study (among other things) how societies perform the allocation of these resources — along with how communities often fail to attain optimality and are instead inefficient. More clearly scarcity is our infinite wants hitting up against finite resources.
Physical goods are likely to remain inherently scarce by definition. Also some non-physical goods are likely to remain scarce by design, examples include positional goods such as awards generated by honor systems, fame, and membership of elite social groups. These things are said to derive all or most of their value from their scarcity. Even in a theoretical post scarcity society, certain goods, such as desirable land and original art pieces, would most likely remain scarce.
On the other hand, the ease with which some goods can be obtained or replicated (for instance, intellectual property) led to the introduction of artificial scarcity in the form of legal restrictions which limit the availability of such goods.
See also 
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- Robbins, Lionel(1932, 2nd ed., 1935). An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, London: Macmillan: pp 16.
- Vatiero Massimiliano (2009), Positional Goods: A Diagrammatic Exposition
- Milgate, Murray (March 2008). "goods and commodities". In Steven N. Durlauf and Lawrence E. Blume. The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (2nd ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 546–48. doi:10.1057/9780230226203.0657. Retrieved 2010-03-24.
- Montani, Guido (1987). "Scarcity". In Eatwell, J. Millgate, M., Newman, P. The New Palgrave. A Dictionary of Economics 4. Palgrave, Houndsmill. pp. 253–54.
- Malthus, Thomas R. (1960) . In Gertrude Himmelfarb. On Population (An Essay on the Principle of Population, as It affects the Future Improvement of Society. With Remarks on the speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and other writers). New York: Modern Library. p. 601. Retrieved 2010-03-24.
- Burke, Edmund (1990) . In E. J. Payne. Thoughts and Details on Scarcity. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, Inc. Retrieved 2010-03-24.