Scarcity is a state of mind — introducing economies of abundance

In a world of scarcity, there will never be enough for everyone. But we have the opportunity to live in abundance. The tools and ideas are already here.

Our traditional economic system is based on the idea of scarcity — meaning that resources are finite and limited at any given time. Meanwhile human needs and desires are endless, therefore society would never have the ability to sufficiently provide for humanity. This belief drives the entire global economy as we know it, designed to benefit an elite minority.

It can be said that scarcity is a culturally cultivated state of mind. By changing the way we perceive resources, we are not making them infinite. Rather, we are switching to an alternative grasp of reality — one of abundance and generosity.

This alternate view is beginning to manifest economically in various microcosms which are gaining more and more recognition. Here are some of the approaches to sharing resources which transform the way we think about scarcity.

Post-scarcity coming our way?

In 2017, activist and filmmaker Peter Joseph defined a post-scarcity world in a resource-based economy with five main characteristics:

  1. Automation: Transition from labor-for-income emphasis to machine automation emphasis. Goals: Maximize productive capacity; reduce human exposure; increase efficiency.
  2. Open-access: Transition from property/ownership emphasis to strategic access emphasis. Goals: Maximize good use-time efficiency; reduce production pressure; increase overall good availability for use.
  3. Open-source: Transition from proprietary research, data hoarding, and internal development to collaborative commons contributions. Goal: Maximize innovation.
  4. Localization: Transition from globalization to localization, emphasizing networked design. Goals: Maximize productive/distribution efficiency; reduce waste.
  5. Networked digital feedback: Transition from fragmented economic data relay to fully integrated, sensor-based digital systems. Goals: Maximize feedback and information efficacy/utilization; increase total economic efficiency.

To clarify how this comes into play, we can examine points 2 and 3 in regards to copyrights. Essentially, copyrighting means claiming an idea as yours and nobody else’s — as though there are limited amount of ideas in the world and you need to claim yours to prevent another from stealing it from you. This Hobbesian approach merely limits human growth and innovation.

On the other hand, some newer technology embraces open-source protocols where anyone can innovate on top of an existing idea. This enables fast-paced, dynamic and almost limitless growth. Such protocols are becoming more and more common, or at least they are technologically easier to come by. Especially in the crypto-space, these practices are widespread and are a fresh contrast to the monolithic economic-political system.

The way I see economies of abundance rising is manifested in several ways:

Shifting into sharing paradigms

Scarcity-based economies focus on costs and restrictions, rather than on opening up endless opportunities.

A state of mind of abundance goes hand in hand with a feeling of generosity — an understanding that there is always the ability to give and share. If you have a spare room in the house, why not let someone stay there as in AirBnB or Couch Surfing? If there is extra space in your car, why not offer someone a ride, as in BlaBlaCar or Uber? Find out more details about sharing economies in a previous article.

Seats2meet (S2M) is an organization which embodies the idea of an economy of abundance. It is a coworking space which gives businesses and freelancers a place to grow. The currency at S2M is not money, but social capital. Ronald van den Hoff, the founder, explains:

“When you come here to do your work, you increase your visibility by signing up online. This way you’re telling the community what you have to share, and what your expertise is. Using that information you’ll be matched, meaning you’ll have unexpected meetings with people who could be relevant to your interests. This generates worth and that becomes the total added value of S2M.”

Seats2Meet is currently set up in 8 countries around the world, with 199 meeting places. It is a bustling ecosystem operating on local premises with an open, sharing environment. The success of Seats2Meet shows that what could be called idealist projects have a great potential, and a role to play in transforming the economy.

In a Dutch interview, the founder shares his views on scarcity:

“Almost everyone has something in abundance, even if it’s knowledge, that’s still something you can share with each other. But this is something that the established order does not like. Because their right to exist relies on scarcity, and on the fact that as traditional organizations only they have access to these scarce resources.”
“There are many things we can do together without mentioning money. This means that the exclusive realm of creating value is no longer only reserved for established organizations.”

If we adopt the right perspective, there is plenty each of us can share and give. Scarcity is in how we approach our resources — both physical and intellectual.

Universal Basic Income

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is the idea that citizens receive a regular, unconditional sum of money which ideally covers the basic costs of living. This system was promoted by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Richard Nixon.

More recently, cryptocurrencies give us the possibility to work with UBI in a “global, trustless and democratic way without the need for a government to implement it,” says Union Square Ventures analyst Dani Grant. This distributes welfare differently — in a decentralized manner that removes a central authority.

An example of this is SwiftDemand. Swift is the biggest crypto-UBI project, which allocates the user 100 credits a day. They are a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) where “delegated nodes” are elected by the Swift “citizens”. Writer Michael Kern explains that “these nodes are responsible for electing/banning Identity Providers, voting on salaries for providers and other nodes, and voting on inflation policies.”

Their view is that “basic income should reduce poverty and help decrease the wage gap between the rich and the poor improving the quality of society.”

Universal Resource Inheritance

EOS has its own unique take on UBI with the Universal Resource Inheritance (URI). Essentially, URI puts a barrier to dynasticism. Fortunes are often turned into inheritance dynasties and those who are born into rich families earn all the wealth from generations earlier. Value is often circulated by layers of patronism and nepotism. With URI, EOS founder Daniel Larimer answers the question “How do we allocate the natural resources of the universe fairly across all generations?”

Larimer suggests a URI rate of 5%. This would redistribute 99.5% of initial wealth over 100 years. Those who do not use their assets productively will slowly lose them.

He explains in his article:

“A “wealth tax” of 5%-per-year would give everyone an income above the poverty line without violating the fairly negotiated property rights of any generation. This wealth tax in the USA means anyone with assets less than $300K of value would in effect pay no tax as their tax is equal to their income. This means almost 75% of Americans would effectively pay no wealth tax because their inheritance is greater than their tax liability.
Furthermore, those with assets above $300K in value are likely earning more than 5% of passive income from those assets. Those who do not use their assets productively (by earning more than 5%) will slowly lose them to the next generation over the course of their life.”

With URI, Larimer hopes to replace a complex opaque existing system by removing corruption in taxation, welfare and social security systems.

Resources will always be limited, but we can still live in abundance

These economic models start from the point of view that we have a lot of wealth and resources to be shared among us. UBI and URI want to redistribute this wealth among us justly. And decentralisation is essential to these processes. Removing power from a centralized authority returns a feeling of community.

Finally, the human imagination is capable of great things if we allow it to. The thought behind S2M, UBI and URI is just a reorganization of what is already in existence in such a way that benefits everyone involved.

Image from Pixabay