Real Scarcity

There is lots to celebrate about creating abundance out of scarcity.

Creating scarcity out of abundance, however, is not a fantastic look for any society.

And yet here we are – trying to do just that – to create legal monopolies out of thin air. Patents, copyrights, and now, NFTs all fall into this bastard category – sold as making money and “incentives” for “creators” (of course), but in reality, nothing but an unnecessary monopoly, the walls of which are paid for by the self-same people excluded from the (now privatised) commons.

To sum up my thinking:

The reality of real scarcity of rivalrous, indivisible goods requires accepting some real monopoly to avoid the tragedy of the commons (think physical property rights). This monopoly, to be fair should be funded by the monopolist beneficiaries, in other words, monopolists should compensate the commons for their monopoly rights (which are not rights at all, but rules!).

Unreal scarcity of real and unreal goods and services – the sort of scarcity that is manufactured out of code and law and not subject to any real constraints – however, is a social bad. Goods are good. Erecting monopolies that exclude otherwise free goods for the sake of private profit alone should not be supported by public money or public law. Fair game if you can persuade others that what you are offering is “unique” but utterly unfair to expect the rest of society and legal system to uphold your illusion at their expense (yes, there is a parallel here with some of our personal identity fictions, but I will refrain from further comment).

Now when it comes to money however, (money, of course is unreal to start with – man-made, made-up and backed by faith and/or force – just like unreal goods…) the opposite logic applies. In order to ensure fair and free trade, we need a reliable unit of account. This means that money (itself unreal) has to be reliably artificially scarce in order not to manipulate the real scarcity of real goods.

That is a lot of words to say:

Digital abundance – good for goods, bad for money

Artificial scarcity – good for money, bad for goods

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