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[ox-en] Re: Scarcity and limitedness - again

Hi Diego and all!

BTW: I noticed that there is one concept missing in this debate which
we had before: deposits. Deposits relate to raw materials which are
not processed by humans in any way. Deposits do really have a fixed
size independent from any human intervention. This is what we refer to
when we talk of ore or petroleum.

Limitedness now takes the human factor into account which is mostly
defined by technology and polititcal decisions. Because it is defined
by technology and polititcal limitedness as such exists independent
From a concrete form of society. How the limitedness is shaped exactly
is a historical question depending on the level of technology and
polititcal decisions made.

Scarcity is the result of a system where you gain abstract profits
From preventing others from access to things. I can only think of
ideological systems of this type like capitalism where it is build
into the very core of the system. But I think religious ideologies
also could be subject to scarcity. For instance it could be argued
that the Christian churches are denying the access to a free sexuality
to maintain their power relationship over their followers.

5 days ago Diego Saravia wrote:
2010/7/1 Stefan Merten <smerten>
For example the word "free" you are using all the time is probably one
of the most overloaded words in the world.

yes, but I am using it in a very specific way

I think this is a bad definition because it contradicts itself and it
also contradicts at least one of its references:

  Item of consumption (such as air) that is useful to people, is
  naturally in abundant supply, and needs no conscious effort to
  obtain it. In contrast, an economic good is scarce in relation to
  its demand and human effort is required to obtain it.


Comapred to deposits / limitedness / scarcity the cited definition
refers to a special sort of deposits - ones with abundant supply.
Anything else is processed by humans or not in abundant supply and
thus not a free good. In particular Free Software is certainly not a
free good according to this definition because it needs conscious
effort to obtain it. According to this Windows is more like a free
good because on a new computer it is usually preinstalled needing less
conscious effort to obtain it...

And for this we
need to be specific and need to understand why the "common" meaning is
not enough for the things we are trying to grasp.

The wikipedia definition is exactly what we need.

The Wikipedia definition contains things like "at zero cost, or almost
zero cost". I'm sorry but what does this really mean? Isn't a
newspaper a free good then because it comes at "almost zero cost"?

scarcity, as normally defined,  is the consecuence of natural limits
and social economy production/distribution system

This is a nice example for thinking in the old paradigm. StefanMz' and
my claim is that with the new paradigm we need to challenge this
"wisdom" and to replace it by something which is more suitable.


Because you are mixing reasons for non-availability of resources like
deposits and limitedness with purely ideological factors like
scarcity. This cloaks the real reasons for scarcity and thus plays the
tune of those who are claiming that capitalism is something "natural".

In a scientific manner I think it's our duty to separate these
different reasons and explore closely what is the effect of a certain
structure of society and what is beyond a certain society.

The fact is that peer production or other production system will not
put a end to scarcity, at least until will find other energy and
material sources

do you have something to say here?

See above. Deposits are not subject to society at all, limitedness is
defined by the interaction between humans and nature and thus subject
to every society and scarcity is the result of ideological

In particular if we try to think about a new society beyond the
ideological constructions of scarcity - which is needed ethically and
given by peer production practically - then we need to distinguish
these things very carefully.

Peer production could reduce scarcity,  we use could generate a better
distribution system using peer production, but we could not continue a
infinite growth path.

You can call that "limits", ok, but that will  not change the fundamental
You can try to change the use of the word scarcity, if you don't like
it, but the facts will continue to be there.

From this I understand that you at least accept that there are two
concepts StefanMz (and I) using different words for.


AFAICS you are
not proposing an own word for limitedness


so I'll stick with the
different words developed here.

ok, with limitedness


you did not give arguments to change scarcity or commons/free goods

I hope I gave something comprehensible now.

That could be a
valid claim but I'll try to explain why IMHO it is misleading at best.

Most of limitedness is due to a certain societal configuration which
*can* be changed by human action.


As in StefanMz' example more apples
*can* be produced if they are needed.

yes, but you will have less oranges

Though I think this is not universally true - production has lots of
degrees of freedom - I get your point. But did you get my point that
beyond a system of abstract exchange leading to scarcity this is
subject to a political decision? While it is not subject to a
political decision under market conditions? Today states make
decisions like this to some degree but states are expected to be not
subject to markets.

Or you *can* invest in new
technologies to solve the need for more energy. If you like this is
the field of politics in a post-scarcity world.

we are not in a postscarcity world, now humankind is desperately searching
for new energy sources, and there isn't nothing obvious in front of us.

It's true that we are not in a post-scarcity world. But we need to get
there. And a post-scarcity world will *not* be a world without
limitedness. Limitedness is always there.

As far as energy sources are concerned: Day by day the sun sends an
amount of energy to earth which for quite some time will be
sufficient. I.e. the deposit is there.

Under a non-scarcity regime humans would have thought about using this
source of energy long ago - i.e. they would have tried to move the
limitedness from "no access to solar energy" to "enough access to
solar energy".

Under the scarcity regime we are living in this did not happen or at
least not to the degree which is needed - *despite* the fact that at
least in the Western countries the societal need for such an advance
in technology is clear at least since the 1970's.

Now the concept of scarcity enters the scene. Scarcity describes a
situation where despite better knowledge there *won't* be more apples
- for instance to keep the prices high.

you are inverting cause-effect here

you will need to  invert first and then you have quantities and then prices.

ok, they are "unknown differential equations", and everything is related,
but you have a time delay in inverstments => production. Tree growth is not
due in a minute.

you can choose if you will have (in the future)  cheaper apples or cheaper
oranges, but if you have a limit in human work time or in capital
investment, or in technologies, you can not produce every good you could
want at the price you want.

Nobody is saying this. I hope you got this now.

But I *am* saying that it makes a big difference whether the societal
system prevents humankind to make a decision in one or the other
direction or not.

There *won't* be new
technlogies for new energy sources such as natural energy sources. And
they won't because the fundamental societal configuration prevents

united states by now are making huge investment in solar/wind energy
sources, some europeans countries are doing the same. China also.

But facing the upcoming climate catastrophe we can only say: Too
little, too late. And whether it will have an effect at all is not
clear yet (think Kopenhagen where the scarcity regime prevented
recognizable progress once more).

AFAICS in your understanding you are neglecting this and say this is
all "nature" and thus can not be changed.

we, as a part of nature, could make a lot of changes.


but we have limits


some "natural", some not, we could produce more goods, and distribute them
better, but we can not produce everything we want without limits, and that
is ussually called scarcity.

I hope that I was able to make clear that for *our discussion* it is
of utmost importance to distinguish between deposits / limitations and


I deleted a lot where I feel that we are getting closer :-) .

So still to me it makes much sense to distinguish scarcity and
limitedness - especially in this discussion.


could you provide us an example of how  you would rewrite
scarcity/common_good/free_good wikipedia pages?

and write limitdness one

For scarcity, limitedness and deposits I gave a short definition
above. Could that serve at least as a starting point?

I'm somewhat hesitant trying to define xy good. xy is not a feature of
the good but of the societal production process the good is produced
by - see my respective remarks on "rival goods" for instance. So it
would be wrong to attribute this to a good as such. But may be a good
definition taking this into account could be given. Any ideas?



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