Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is scarcity a monetary phenomena?

A fellow blogger posted an article titled "Change the Rules of the game or Game itself?", where he mentioned the The Venus Project, and made claims in relation to the lowering of prices of mangoes such as:
For once, if we take the money out the equation, there are plenty of mangoes there a lot of people could eat instead of letting it rot in the market.
This is a bold claim to make. Is scarcity really just a monetary phenomena? If there was no money, there won't be any scarcity?I think not.

Taking money out of the equation does not remove the scarcity of the mangoes or any good for that matter. There is no infinite supply of land for mango trees, nor an infinite supply of farmers to grow them, nor an infinite number of traders and vehicles to bring the produce to the consumers, etc. Simply saying removing money out of the equation does not remove this scarcity.

Laws of supply and demand is the reality whether we like it or not. Whether money is involved or not. In barter as well, you would give up something more valuable in exchange for something that is more scarce. Money is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. Remove money, we are back to barter, and the problems of scarcity will remain.

Even assuming that the Earth has enough natural resources for the world population (as the Venus Project claims), it takes time, energy, skill, tools, machinery to make the resources to a consumable form. As such, it will always be a matter of trade off between where to put more time and energy to say growing mangoes or other tasks.

At a cursory glance, the Venus Project appears to advocate a central authority to control every aspect of our life in the name of humanity. It states:
Considerable amounts of energy would also be saved by eliminating the duplication of competitive products such as tools, eating utensils, pots, pans and vacuum cleaners. Choice is good. But instead of hundreds of different manufacturing plants and all the paperwork and personnel required to turn out similar products, only a few of the highest quality would be needed to serve the entire population.
Is it not the competition that drives innovation and creativity? What is the incentive to make the single highest quality product? Such central-planning never works.

And it is not even self consistent. Here it says (emphasis mine):
Overpopulation, energy shortages, global warming, environmental pollution, water scarcity, economic catastrophe, the spread of uncontrollable disease, and the technological displacement of people by machines threaten each of us.
While here it states:
With the advent of future developments in science and technology, we will assign more and more decision making to machines.
Ofcourse, there will be lots of benefit to come from the renewable energy research and others that they propose to do, but as a social system I have my reservations. And thats just after a cursory look at their website. I think there will be a lot more to dig out, or am I way out of line here? Just one question remains.

Who controls the code running on these machines?

2 comments:

Stewie said...

I think there is a little bit of a misunderstanding here.perhaps due to my poor phrasing.
What i was trying to tell is that, the reason why the mangoes were let to rot in the market instead of using them is the profit the farmers need to earn from them.
today it is indeed the monetary system that rewards scarcity. the more scarce a good is, the better for the business. that is the laws of supply and demand as you agree. taking money out per se will not create abundance, unless we use the current state of technology to make it happen and change the whole system to favor it.

Now it would be useless to continue this discussion within the frame of reference we have within current system. I will qoute something Peter Joseph said which is quite releven to this:

"As far as scarcity, it can be overcome through environmental monitoring and autonomous cybernated systems. The management would be very simple. one person behind a computer could monitor the production for an entire city
once the system is set up, For more on this, see the 83 page Orientation
guide at http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com/The%20Zeitgeist%20Movement.pdf

The sad things is, 99% of the
population has no idea as the to the true state of technology, so they find it very hard to think that machines can replicate themselves...
they can "heal", self correct and maintain an "awareness" of its
environment. In time, the machines will be constructed through
nano-techonolgy from the atom up. This also goes for most production
items, including food. We face a new world of incredible abundance and we need to realize this and adapt of social system to fit the new level.For this to occur, the monetary system must be overcome. The longer we have it, the more paralyzed we become".

It would not be fair to just qoute parts from venusproject as it could be taken out of context. it would require look in to it thoroughly to make any conclusions. It is very difficult to talk about such a system as we live in a monetary system where everything is percieved in a very narrow self-interest and what's in it for me kind of way.

The point is today, earth has enough resources to cater to every human being on planet and we have the technology to make it happen. In the transition, yes we will require a great deal of human labor to change the system. to automate the production lines and distribution lines. But as we move on, things will be streamlined and as the machines take over to do the tedious, repetitive job and even the decision making, we would realize what its like to be a human.
Now one may refuse the idea of delegating the decision making to a machine. but if you do not realize it, we do it already. when you punch in numbers to a calculator and accept the results from the machine, we are delegating the decision making to a machine. The question, who will decide what is coming from the current value system and frame of reference we have. The fact is all decisions would be based on the carrying capacity of the planet. There is no authority, no govt. the earth is govt. the machines will monitor the resources and decide what can be done and what can't be done. Hospitals will be build based on how many patients there are on average on a certain location for eg.

Its not a perfect system they advocate, ofcourse there will be things to improve always BUT its a lot better than what we have today. The beauty of the system is they recognize all the living being on the planet as one and the apply the scientific method to society and use give technology its deserved place to improve.

I understand your questions here and if my answers here is not good enough, i do recommend to read the orientation guide i suggested above (if you are interested). The zeitgeist movement is the right hand activist of The Venus Project.

meekaaku said...

mangoes maybe hoarded if there was only one supplier. If there are many competitive suppliers it is more likely that mangoes will be available as long as the season is right and buyers are there. If Ali hoard his produce hoping to raise prices, other farmers will bring the mangoes to the market and sell them. The only loss will be for Ali.