Post-scarcity economy

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Post-scarcity is a theoretical economy in which goods, services and information are universally accessible.[1]

The term post-scarcity economics is somewhat of a misnomer because scarcity is a defining feature of modern economics. Quoting a 1932 essay written by Lionel Robbins, economics is: "the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses."[2]

Mainstream economics[edit]

Main article: Scarcity

In a 1932 essay Lionel Robbins defines economics as being "the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses."[3]

Unavoidable scarcity[edit]

Population growth, as it continues, will lead to unavoidable scarcity. As pointed out by Thomas Robert Malthus, Paul R. Ehrlich, Albert Allen Bartlett, and others, exponential growth in human population has the capacity to overwhelm any finite supply of resources, even the entire known universe, in a remarkably short time. For example, if the human population continued to grow indefinitely at its 1994 rate, in 1,900 years the mass of the human population would equal the mass of Earth.[4]

The post-scarcity model[edit]

Socialism and Communism[edit]

Karl Marx, in his Grundrisse, argued that scarcity would eventually be eclipsed by the further development of automation, eventually reaching a point where human activity is free from material constraints to pursue the sciences and arts, and to pursue creative activities.[5] Marx's concept of a post-capitalist communist society involves the free distribution of goods made possible by the abundance provided by automation.[6]The fully developed communist economic system is postulated to develop from a preceding socialist system. Marx held the view that socialism - a system based on social ownership of the means of production - would enable progress toward the development of fully developed communism by further advancing productive technology. Under socialism, with its increasing levels of automation, an increasing proportion of goods would be distributed freely.[7]

Digital abundance[edit]

Richard Stallman, the founder of the GNU project, has cited the eventual creation of a post-scarcity society as one of his motivations:[8]

In the long run, making programs free is a step toward the post-scarcity world, where nobody will have to work very hard just to make a living. People will be free to devote themselves to activities that are fun, such as programming, after spending the necessary ten hours a week on required tasks such as legislation, family counseling, robot repair and asteroid prospecting. There will be no need to be able to make a living from programming.


Science fiction[edit]

The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. Over three novels, Robinson charts the terraforming of Mars as a human colony and the establishment of a post-scarcity society.

The Culture novels by Iain M Banks. The Culture is a post-scarcity society.

The Rapture of the Nerds a post-scarcity society about "disruptive" technology. The Rapture of the Nerds is a derogatory term for the Technological Singularity coined by SF author Ken MacLeod.

Con Blomberg's 1959 short story "Sales Talk" depicts a post-scarcity society in which society incentivizes consumption to reduce the burden of overproduction.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Chernomas. (1984). "Keynes on Post-Scarcity Society." In: Journal of Economic Issues, 18(4).
  2. ^ Retrieved September-13-2015
  3. ^ Robbins, Lionel (1945). An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (PDF). London: Macmillan and Co., Limited. , p. 16
  4. ^ Muir, Patricia (2007-11-01). "Cornucopian versus New Malthusian perspectives". Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  5. ^ Jessop and Wheatley, Bob and Russell (1999). Karl Marx's Social and Political Thought, Volume 6. Routledge. p. 9. ISBN 9780415193283. Marx in the Grundrisse speaks of a time when systematic automation will be developed to the point where direct human labor power will be a source of wealth. The preconditions will be created by capitalism itself. It will be an age of true mastery of nature, a post-scarcity age, when men can turn from alienating and dehumanizing labor to the free use of leisure in the pursuit of the sciences and arts. 
  6. ^ Wood, John Cunningham (1996). Karl Marx’s Economics: Critical Assessments I. Routledge. p. 248-249. ISBN 978-0415087148. Affluence and increased provision of free goods would reduce alienation in the work process and, in combination with (1), the alienation of man’s ‘species-life’. Greater leisure would create opportunities for creative and artistic activity outside of work. 
  7. ^ Wood, John Cunningham (1996). Karl Marx’s Economics: Critical Assessments I. Routledge. p. 248. ISBN 978-0415087148. In particular, this economy would possess (1) social ownership and control of industry by the ‘associated producers’ and (2) a sufficiently high level of economic development to enable substantial progress toward ‘full communism’ and thereby some combination of the following: super affluence; distribution of an increasing proportion of commodities as if they were free goods; an increase in the proportion of collective goods... 
  8. ^ GNU Manifesto (full text online, see also GNU Manifesto) - Stallman, Richard; Dr. Dobb's Journal, March 1985
  9. ^ Retrieved-September-13-2015

External links[edit]