Scarcity: What do you think?

Scarcity: What do you think? August 24, 2013

A brief passage from the Slow Church manuscript (specifically the part on economics).

I’d love your input on this… Are there enough resources to sustain creation as a whole?   And regardless, how do we know, if there are or are not? Is this a question that can only be answered theologically?

Despite the opulent abundance of creation, the world’s economic systems are built upon a foundation of scarce resources.   Scarcity is explicitly or implicitly given primacy of place in many definitions of economics as a social science. For example, the “most commonly accepted current definition” is from Lionel Robbins: “Economics is a science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.”[i]  The standard economic story is that if a resource is perceived to be scarce and the demand for it is high, then people will be willing to pay more for it, and the price will go up.  There are situations of real and apparent scarcity in the world; people die of hunger due to famines and complex socio-economic systems that prevent the movement of sufficient food from places that have too much to famine areas.  We also see the effects of apparent scarcity when prices skyrocket for the latest toy or video-game that every kid wants for Christmas and that stores can’t keep in stock.  What we are primarily interested in, however, is the big picture: are there enough resources in creation for the sustenance of all life? This question is a complex one and we can create vast systems that support our particular answer, but ultimately we can only answer in faith. Although answering in negative is a useful mythology for protecting the interests of wealthy nations and individuals, we believe that the biblical narrative compels us to answer in the affirmative: God loves creation and has provided and will provide the sustenance that we need. 

[i] Backhouse Roger E. & Steven Medema 2009 “Retrospectives: On the Definition of Economics” J of Economic Perspectives V. 23 #1 p. 225. (emphasis added)


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