Scarcity Mindset on both Personal and Societal Level

The rise and fall of Self-expression values - Wikipedia

Political scientist Ronald Inglehart has examined the dichotomy between so-called “self-expression values” (concepts like social toleration, life satisfaction, public expression, and an aspiration to liberty) which he concludes are essential to modernization, and “survival values” (those brought on by economic scarcity include ethnocentrism, xenophobia, fear of disease, and a hunger for authoritarianism). And according to the World Values Survey, the US has shifted strongly toward survival values and away from self-expression. Gun sales are up; charitable donations are down; hate crimes are up, societal trust is down. But the US is still a wealthy country, and as Noah Smith points out in this post, “This scarcity crisis is entirely artificial.” So what has made Americans see the world as a zero-sum game? According to Smith,

America has created artificial scarcities of tangible goods like housing, education, and access to the country, and intangibles like a sense of belonging. Not all of our scarcities are artificial, of course—high-paying jobs at top companies like Google are limited due to the superstar firm phenomenon. But for the most part, the things Americans are scrabbling to take from each other are things whose supply we have chosen to limit.

The economic danger of this perception of scarcity is that it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy: the winner-take-all model stifles innovation across the market. People and organizations that focus solely on their own needs don’t address society-wide problems that impact us all. The centers of innovation will move to places where self-expression values and collaboration thrive—leaving those trapped in a zero-sum outlook behind. Are we optimistic? Of course. As Tim O’Reilly says, “The generosity of open source software and the World Wide Web, the genius of algorithmically amplified collective intelligence are still there, pointing the way to the Next Economy, but it is an economy we must actively choose, rather than riding the rails of a system that is taking us in the wrong direction.”

– Next:Economy Newsletter

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