I think that talking about the “post-scarcity economy” is weird seeing as how so many people already live in a post-scarcity world, and yet still manage to create scarcity for themselves. 

By all accounts, what you need to live a satisfied, pleasant life can be purchased relatively inexpensively nowadays. People 100 years ago would look at the lifestyle of a middle class American and their jaws would drop at the wealth. Meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, three hour trips from Chicago to Salt Lake, instant communication with anyone anywhere, Honda Civics, 2,000 square foot houses.

I haven’t done a lot of research, but when I hear about post-scarcity, I think of the two things that scarcity really is:

  1. Actual, physical lack, whether psychological or biological
  2. Lingering, vestigial want

I’m afraid that lingering want will always exist. We will find ways to create scarcity…we will find the things that are difficult to create, and we will value them more highly and feel better when we acquire them, at least for a little while. And when I say all this in the future tense, I mean that it’s already happened.

Wanting, as I have said, is my favored definition of “alive.” So, I do not have faith in our ability (certainly not my ability) to stop it. And it’s a testament to our capacity for lingering want that we continue spending massive amounts of resources on unnecessary luxuries while many people still have real, physical needs that have not been satisfied. 

Not that I’m judging, or if I am, I am judging myself. I’m writing this on a macbook air while sitting on a leather sofa in a 1,200 square foot house..these are not things I need. I’m just saying that this vestigial want is a uniquely powerful force that seems to eliminate any possibility of a post-scarcity world.