[ExI] Post-scarcity from the demand side/was Re: Effectiveness of democracy as a result of selection bias

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 1 19:58:45 UTC 2009

--- On Wed, 7/1/09, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 8:29 AM
> 2009/6/30 Dan <dan_ust at yahoo.com>:
>> I disagree.  I don't think there will ever be such a
>> thing as a post-scarcity society.  As long as there are
>> unmet wants, there will be scarcity.  And I also disagree
>> that statism -- whether in its democratic form or something
>> else -- is necessary or inevitable either.  I think
>> de-legitimizing the state can happen and this can happen in
>> variety of ways -- not necessarily in a purely ideological
>> change where everyone wakes up and sees that statism really
>> is worse than the alternatives.
> The post-scarcity society will not come by addressing
> supply, but by
> addressing demand. A radical way to do this would be to
> have direct
> control of your brain so that you can modify your desires
> and second
> order desires. If I have $1000 I want $2000; but if instead
> of going
> to the trouble getting the extra thousand I could modify my
> mind so
> that I could be in every way *just as satisfied* with the
> thousand I
> already have, why wouldn't I? The end result would be that
> I adjust my
> mind so that I am motivated to do only those things which I
> consider
> of intrinsic worth, or those things which I think I *ought*
> to
> consider of intrinsic worth.

I don't disagree with that -- getting rid of demands would put one in a post-scarcity condition -- and this was implied by my remark, "As long as there are unmet wants, there will be scarcity."  So, I agree one can approach scarcity from the supply side, the demand side, or both sides.*  To remain continuously in a situation where all wants are met, however, seems unlikely short of rewiring one's mind -- whether literally or figuratively (as in convincing oneself to never have any wants one can't immediately meet) -- to eliminate these.

However, I don't think that a person pursuing only supposed "instrinsic worth" goals** is in a post-scarcity state.  Yes, she or he might have a very short list of goals, but these goals will still likely require scarce resources to achieve and will force her or him to economize.  For instance, even the monk has scarce time for contemplation and might have to choose between spending more time meditating over doing something else -- e.g., mending his sandals, going on pilgrimage, or planting barley.  Just having a shorter list of demands, doesn't make one demand-free and one is still forced to choose how to use one's means -- even if one only acts for what one believes are worthy ends.



*  Of course, for people who lack many of what are considered basic necessities, they might tell you they'd prefer to attack the supply side -- for them at least.  Certainly, there's nothing morally wrong, IMO, with pursuing ever more wealth.  That said, there's always been a certain romantic appeal, for me, of people who can live with only, say, the clothes on their back.

**  Which is not to mock the notion.  I think many people pursue things that won't make them happy or that are contradictory to their other goals.


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