Saturday, August 27, 2016

Scarcity or Abundance?

If you truly believe that your source is infinite, how can you worry about taking more than your fair share?
Paraphrased from a motivational video, original source unknown.

This is one of those posts that might manage to annoy almost everyone. It has to do with your subconscious metanarrative, the overarching story you believe about reality and your place in the universe.

The prestigious Club of Rome using the most advanced statistical modeling predicted the world would run out of gold by 1981 and out of oil by 1992. Why they decided the world might run out of gold is beyond my comprehension. Gold isn’t consumed. Virtually all the gold ever mined since the beginning of time is still in circulation or storage—somewhere. Oil is a little easier to understand. Most of the byproducts of oil are gone once they are burned, but there are more known oil reserves in the world today than in 1972 when the Club of Rome published The Limits to Growth. I can’t buy a gallon of gas for $0.17 anymore, but there is plenty of 89 octane mid-grade available at my local station for $2.19 per gallon. At $4.00 per gallon the use of fracking technology in places like North Dakota becomes economically attractive. At somewhere over $10.00 per gallon, the technology exists to turn low grade bituminous coal into perfectly good unleaded gasoline. It has been estimated that the U.S. has enough coal to supply itself with gasoline for over 700 years.

That is only the beginning for one technology, the production of energy for the purpose of transportation. How about bio-diesel manufactured from recycled cooking oil? How about electric cars powered up by the energy from your local nuclear power station? How about natural gas; clean burning, all American prime rib energy at hamburger prices?

This line of reasoning brings up another abundant source of wealth beyond gold and oil, the human mind. When Steve Jobs and his design team developed the iPhone, did their efforts make the world poorer or did the creation of an entirely new undreamed of product make the world wealthier? Today, in village markets in Africa financial transactions are routinely handled using cell phone technology. These countries never even had a national land line system. They went from no phone lines, not even a telegraph system, to the 21st century in a single step.

Is the world’s wealth a finite fixed quantity? Then scarcity dictates that the world is a zero-sum game. Every dollar, house, car, or hamburger I own or consume is something that you can’t possess or consume. If on the other hand, the universe, by its very nature, contains abundance and alternatives that can be discovered or created by human ingenuity, then our self imposed limits are more a psychological problem than an actual physical boundary.

In the context of the motivation video, the producers were pitching their view of the abundance of the universe and the law of attraction. It is clear that I could misuse wealth. Money is power and power corrupts whether it is controlled by a 19th century robber baron or a 21st century governmental bureaucrat. But what if I could believe that my use of wealth could become a channel of blessing for myself and others? An Indian proverb notes that as the great river progresses from the mountains to sea, it never worries about running out of water as it blesses the plants, animals, and men that come to its banks to receive the gift of life.

1 comment:

  1. In this context, I think it would be fair to say that the capacity for weaalth is finite, but unlimited. That is, it would take an infinite number of wealth producing actions to produce an infinite amount of wealth, but there is no specific limit to the amount of wealth that can be produced. A little like the number of decimal places in pi versus the number of places that will be calculated in the future. All of them will never be calculated because, no matter how many have been calculated, there are more as yet uncalculated, but more may be calculated tomorrow, or in another universe.