July 8, 2021

261. The economics of scarcity

From day one economics students are taught that their discipline is all about the optimal allocation of resources. The concept of scarcity is at the very heart of how we are supposed to think. And yet, as Prof Steve Ken explains this week, that scarcity doesn’t really exist. There’s plenty of people available to do jobs, there’s masses of untapped energy potential from the sun. This challenges the idea of opportunity cost – why do A or B when you can do A and B? Ironically, the one resource which is scarce, the environment, is the one element that economics has traditionally blithely ignored. So, if its not to do with managing the allocation of scarce resources, what should be the real definition of economics? Phil Dobbie suggests one – perhaps you can do better.

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