The Myth of Scarcity 2

The Myth of Scarcity 2

Last week we began to see that Conservatism rests on several Major Myths. These Myths, because they are fundamental mistakes, make virtually all of conservative thinking fundamentally wrong. And to the extent that we tolerate Conservatism, we tolerate fundamental error, which leads to fundamental mistakes in judgment, to fundamental mistakes in ethics, and ultimately to fundamental mistakes in action. Everyone suffers for the mistakes of Conservatism. That is why it must be demolished.

The first Major Myth we started to tackle last week was the Myth of Scarcity, that is, We need to fear running out of resources, and we need to fear other people, who will harm or kill us in order to steal our resources. We said that we would leave the latter part of the Myth, the part about fearing other people, until later. We will get to that tomorrow. But today we will continue Friday's post, which showed that there is no need to fear shortages of food, water, or land. Now we will show that there is no need to fear shortages of energy or money.

Energy is not scarce

It is of course taken for granted, and has been for decades, that the world is running out of energy, that there isn’t enough to go around, that we have to keep competing for the very scarce resources that are left.

This is complete nonsense. It is predicated on the notion that energy must be extracted from fossil fuel. It does not. Much more energy exists than that which can be extracted from fossil fuels. We just don’t know how to use it all yet.

In fact, we have more fossil fuel than we need—much more. So much, indeed, that we will probably destroy the planet before we use it all up. This is because burning fossil fuels is ruining the atmosphere that supports our existence.

On the other hand, more energy hits the earth every day in the form of sunlight than the whole world uses in an entire year. And there are other promising technologies that can deliver energy in non-destructive ways.

The problem is not scarcity of energy. It's that we haven’t yet learned how to make use of the energy that is all around us. And that those who profit from fossil fuels control the energy market in ways that make it difficult for others to start the process of weaning ourselves from limited and destructive fossil fuels.

Money is not scarce

Scarcity of money is a myth because money is not some sort of limited commodity like gold, which could run out at some time. Money is not like that at all. Literally, money is nothing. It is the universal solvent of commodities. I take one commodity, say bananas, dissolve it into a quantity of money, then take that quantity of money and transmute it into another commodity, say books. Stated this way, it sounds like magic, and that sounds silly.

But it really isn’t so silly. That is exactly what money is: the universal commodity. It can stand for absolutely anything else, a product, a service, an idea, a book, a tool, a passion. As such, money is literally no thing. It is a pure means, the purest of means. Other things can be used for other purposes. Cars can be driven as well as exchanged. But money has only one use, to be the middle term in an exchange of commodities.

And because money isn’t really anything, anything can be money. At various times in history cattle, salt, iron, gold, silver, crops, and pieces of paper have served as money. It really doesn’t matter. Money can be anything, because at its core it is nothing.

So where does the idea that there is a limited amount of it come from? Only from the belief that it’s like other commodities.

But it’s not. There is no limit to the amount of money that is possible, because money arises from all the possible exchanges that can occur among all the other commodities produced by all the work of man and the work of all his machines. The amount of money can grow continually as long as there are more people working, or more productivity, or more machines working. Even if world population levels off, there would still be the possibility of inventing new machines to do more and more work for us, while keeping the amount of human labor steady.

The only thing that limits the amount of money in the world is the total amount of work that all humans and their machines can do. Find new ways to use human work and new machines to do more work, and the money supply will increase automatically.

Next

Tomorrow we will begin to tackle the question of whether there is any justification for Conservatism's fear of other people. (Spoiler alert: There is not.)

Until tomorrow, then.

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