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Using Scarcity in Defense of Capitalism

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Maphisto86's picture
Maphisto86
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Joined: 28-07-10
Feb 26 2020 19:29
Using Scarcity in Defense of Capitalism

I often run into pro-capitalist arguments from notable websites online like the Mises Institute that claim a communist society is impossible due to the issue of limited resources. It is the pose that capitalism allocates these scarce resources (natural resources, services, labor, etc) efficiently. Not to mention the idea that the technology and methods that helped alleviate such scarcity is only possible thanks to markets and especially capitalism.

I know these are old arguments but they repeatedly crop up again and again. While the latter is hard to answer as it delves into speculative history, I wanted to know opinions on the former. Many of the people here do believe a communist society is viable but can it really be described as "post-scarcity" since there will always be limits on resources? Do we conveniently ignore scarcity or does anarchist thought take it into account?

ajjohnstone
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Feb 26 2020 22:50

Related to this argument I find is the over-population myth, that because of too many people we cannot have an ecologically sustainable society, and resources will never be sufficient.

Even leftists do not have the confidence that the world can produce sufficient in a sustainable manner to provide for all. They caution against unlimited growth and warned that the planet’s resources are finite. Our reply to the many well-meaning environmentalists is that they have accepted the false premise of capitalism that people possess limitless wants - or in plain language, people are greedy. Yet right in front of their eyes, exposing the lie, exist the vast advertising industry that capitalism requires to create demand all and around us the hierarchal society where ones status is expressed by a display of conspicuous consumption that we are all taught to try and emulate.

Raw material exists in abundance, human energy and ingenuity is in abundance, the genuine desire for useful articles of all kinds exists in every home, yet under capitalist control of industry it is impossible to bring these together. Nothing is so easily produced as wealth. The Earth is one vast storehouse of raw materials. In every passing river, in every wave or tide, in every gust of wind and ray of sun, are the renewable forces to be transformed into energy. We can tap into Nature’s fabulous abundance to banish for all time the spectre of want, and make our planet even more fit for human habitation.

On the left today and in environmental movements, the expansion of production is viewed as a “bad thing.” It causes pollution, ecological collapse, and climate change. No doubt, the expansion of industry under capitalism has caused these terrible changes. The central concept of the post-scarcity economy is that technology gets better and better, so things that are mass produced get more abundant. Under the circumstances nobody needs to work to survive and there's really no point in maintaining a cash economy.

yourmum
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Mar 6 2020 10:40

The scarcity thought is indeed a difficult nut to crack. how to refute it? It is a value theory, and it does not contradict the labor theory of value directly. Labor takes place to alleviate scarcity, so it is plain to see how you can argue that scarcity is the value-forming principle. I've done some thinking on this topic, but cannot provide a definite refutation of the theory or rather the term in a sentence yet (other than contradicting facts - things that are scarce but have no value, easy to find)..
when dealing with the scarcity people you have to be aware they might not know the first thing about classical economic theory, for example the difference between price and value.. the scarcity theory allows for that, which also makes it so unnerving smile

The second point (capitalism makes it possible) is easy, it would mean that no other form of society could advance technology, which has already been practically refuted in feudalism before capitalism even was born.

p.s. sorry for directly heading into marxism when you didn't even want to know if scarcity can serve as a value theory (my tunnel vision...). as for your question... if they say this is efficient, then we do not want this kind of efficiency. It is the efficiency of making profits they refer to, that is the efficiency the whole capitalist economy is about.

alb
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Mar 6 2020 15:15

One thing to bear in mind is that academic economics as taught in schools and colleges is not using the word “scarcity” in its usual sense. Normally it means a shortage of something, that it’s in short supply. But they are defining it in such a way that it is an eternal and unchangeable part of human existence. This because they also assume that human wants are “infinite”. In that case of course there will always be “scarcity”. By definition. For them it’s the absence of “sheer” or “absolute” abundance.

Our reply has to be that human wants are not infinite but are socially determined and that resources are abundant enough to provide for the likely needs of the whole world’s population (and more) if production and distribution were organised with this in mind.

This article goes into this criticism of academic economics in more detail.

zugzwang
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Joined: 25-11-16
Mar 8 2020 05:52

There was a funny T Bone Slim quote on the wcl podcast regarding "abundance." I haven't really deciphered it, but I guess it has something to do with capitalist crises and workers and goods lying fallow; or maybe it's pointing out abundance for the bourgeoisie isn't abundance for workers.

Quote:
Never has there been a shortage of abundance in these United States. Rather, it has been a case of too much abundance—and ‘too much’ is not ‘enough’. Too much is too much (just what it says) and enough is less than too
much. Too much is more than enough and enough is never too much. Sufficiency isn’t too much, but it is enough, so you can see yourself, enough is enough and too much is too much. Abundance is too much and not enough: hence it is a very ambiguous quantity to monkey with. Better stick to sufficiency—be it ever so elegant.

Spikymike
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Mar 14 2020 15:20

This article also very relevant referring back to Mises:
https://dissidentvoice.org/2020/03/the-economic-calculation-controversy/