Economics is usually defined as the problem of how best to distribute limited resources, limited because wants are characterised as unlimited, but common sense tells us that rather than limited resources, there is an abundance of resources. The difference is one of perspective and this is core to any alternative understanding of economics. If wants are the focus, then of course resources are limited by definition, but if minimum needs or essentials are used as the foundation, then resources are seen to be abundant.
The difference is between a description and an explanation. A focus on wants or desires describes a market situation, while a focus on essentials or needs allows an explanation of choices to begin. It is necessary to shift the basis of economic theory away from assumptions of scarcity and onto that of the reality of high production if a rational explanation is to be found as to why certain activities are profitable and others, despite their desirability on social or moral grounds, are not.
This begins with the understanding that an abundance of resources means that not all need to work productively and that some use more resources than others. Who shall be the lucky ones and how to keep the unlucky quiet is fundamental to the running of most economies. Abundance is therefore an economic problem because the choices opened up by having more resources than is strictly needed to live presents a danger to those processes of production and the command that some have over resources that created the abundance in the first place.
Why does so much waste exists along side so much poverty in the world? The orthodox assumption of scarcity has survived even the staggering levels of surplus of modern economies because this assumption suits the needs of those who command resources and who prefer to ensure that the economy does not become democratised; that unpleasant tasks are done by someone else, that some win and many lose.
An Economic theory based not on scarcity but on abundance is a theory that seeks not to describe distribution but to explain choices. The development of such a theory would undercut the dominance of those satisfied with the current methods of production and control over resources. It would do so by revealing the choices made to limit the production of essentials and to divert resources to the production of luxury and fashion goods. A distribution of resources currently labeled scarcity’.
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