[p2p-research] Artificial Scarcity Is Subject To Massive Deflation | Techdirt

Ryan Lanham rlanham1963 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 5 20:31:51 CET 2009

On Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 1:59 PM, Kevin Carson <
free.market.anticapitalist at gmail.com> wrote:

> As people
> are able to meet present needs outside the cash nexus, with less
> labor, they won't discover enough new needs to keep working the same
> number of hours to buy additional kinds of stuff; they'll just work
> less.
> I still tend to think there is infinite elasticity of demand for high end
services--restaurant food for instance--but I even begin to see how that
could wane.  But the point is clearly taken on stuff.  There is a clear
moral shift on climate change that is also impacting this discussion.  It is
no longer fashionable to be a conspicuous consumer.

The way I thought this would work has been tied to technology acceleration.
I've always wondered...what happens when you build the best possible diesel
locomotive and then start finding ways to make it cheaper and cheaper.  In a
sense, the IP can go on for a while, but the relative value of the IP is the
question.  The marginal value (utility) of IP is clearly falling as
technology accelerates.

It is difficult to build a better X now, and the rent value of an X (say an
email system) will fall over time as technology improves in related
domains.  It begins to become an interesting question to ask what if all
corporate information services came from Google?  Would that be a license
for corruption or the advent of the free economy?  Leading pundits are
saying both things.

Personally I cannot reconcile the IP world's obvious changes with changes to
the service world.  I suppose robotics makes that leap.  What is the value
of a French restaurant if my robot cooks a perfect French meal on
demand--after going shopping for the necessary ingredients at the optimal

As a recent strong skeptic, I am prepared to say something is definitely
afoot and that it is accelerating.  I didn't see the beginnings of it as
many here did, but I am clearly impressed that the outlines of the thing
people here have been calling "post-scarcity" is starting to take real
shape.  For the first time in some years, a logical economic progression
toward something is beginning to emerge in my own mind...the last time this
happened was about 1984 when the first Macintoshes fell into my hands and I
realized computing was going to become ubiquitous and commonplace.  Now with
that obviously in hand some 25 years later, I can now see a path to widely
deployed post-scarcity 25 years from now.  I share strongly the balance
concern that Reasons cited about value decay of productivity versus market
force needs.  It could still end very badly.  Maybe today I am less
pessimistic though.

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