While they seem to have receded somewhat, a couple of years ago, there were quite a few arguments about the fundamentals of economics (especially macroeconomics) and how to teach them. As an outsider, one thing that struck me as odd was the emphasis on scarcity (e.g., economics is called the science of scarcity). It’s odd because, at least in wealthy societies, there are very few scarce items. We’re definitely not slacking in our ability to produce calories, which arguably for most of human, if not hominin, history was the vital concern.
Today, many things are finite, but they exceed our capacity to desire them. A few things in the U.S. might be scarce: water in the Western U.S. or non-carbon dioxide emitting energy, though one could argue these are limiting largely due to our stupidity, not because they are truly scarce. In other words, most of our economic problems don’t seem to be Malthusian at all (boldface mine):
We have more empty homes than homeless people.
We have more food than necessary to feed everyone in the world.
This is not an era of actual scarcity. It is an era of artificial scarcity.
We either already have excess capacity or we have the ability to create more than people need of all necessities.
This includes housing, food and clothing. We still have enough water, globally, if we are wiling to be smart about how we use it, and in those areas where there are geographical problems they can be solved, in general IF we are willing to be a bit flexible in how we grow our food. We need to stop draining aquifers and move the farmers over-using aquifer water to crops that use less water, or to other lives.
Early results show that intensive urban agriculture creates between 3 to 10 times the food that traditional agriculture does….
Most scarcity is artificial. It is imposed through a money system where a few people have the right to create money and everyone else has to get it from them. That money is nothing more or less, in this context, than permission to use society’s resources, whether people’s labor or the results of that labor.
The only real restrictions on our ability to supply what people need are overuse of sinks (like carbon) and overuse of resources, whether renewable or non-renewable, but we either have the necessary technology to move away from that overuse, or we have scientists and engineers who would love to create it for us, but who can’t get the resources/money they need to do so.
But much of this is low hanging fruit: we already have enough food and housing and far more textile capacity than we need.
I don’t know enough to speak about the global economy, but, certainly, in the U.S. context, it would seem we would be better served by a science of redistribution, not scarcity. It’s worth noting that there are two forms of scarcity. One is the absence of ‘stuff’, which we’ve already shown isn’t much of an issue. The other, touched on in the quote, is inadequate purchasing power–a scarcity of money. This is something we hear all the time in public debates: we don’t have enough money to do something, even though we have the resources to do it including human resources (people willing to work).
This is what makes modern monetary realism/theory so radical: by recognizing that money-based scarcity (the inability to purchase existing goods) is something that can be solved by creating money–that is, more government spending–puts the lie to the Malthusian paradigm.
Maybe we need a science of redistribution, not scarcity.