Scarcity

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"Scarce" redirects here. For the surname, see Scarce (surname). For the New York based band, see Scarce (band).
Map of the global distribution of economic and physical water scarcity as of 2006

Scarcity is the fundamental economic problem of having seemingly unlimited human wants in a world of limited resources. It states that society has insufficient productive resources to fulfill all human wants and needs. A common misconception on scarcity is that an item has to be important for it to be scarce. This is not true, for something to be scarce, something must be given up, or traded off, in order to obtain it. Simply put, the price of a good signals the relative scarcity of the good.

For example, although air is more important to us than gold, it is cheaper simply because the production cost of air is zero. Gold on the other hand has a high production cost. It has to be found and processed, both of which require a great deal of resources. Additionally, 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."[1]

In biology, scarcity can refer to the uncommonness or rarity of certain species. Such species are often protected by local, national or international law in order to prevent extinction.

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  1. ^ Robbins, Lionel (2014) [1932]. An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan. p. 16. 

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