Scarcity, Control and Fear

A basic premise in marketing is to create a demand for your product. One of the tricks of creating a demand is scarcity. The scarcer something is, the more valuable it will seem and presumedly the more people will be willing to pay for it. Think oil, gold and diamonds, for example. Scarcity also creates in some people a desire to have that scarce commodity whether because of wanting to feel different or better by having such a scarce substance or the desire to be seen as special and therefore possess more power than others.

Scarcity has also been used throughout history as a means of control. Consider this, if Germany had not been in such dire straights, such dismal economic conditions, if jobs and food had not been so scarce – would Hitler have risen to power? Or perhaps a more general question – if millions of people hadn’t been convinced that we were running out oil, clean air and polar ice caps, would so many of us be so scared we were going to kill the planet? Or feel we had to come up with alternate solutions (even bad, expensive, unworkable solutions) to deal with that fear of scarcity?

For example, the United States has lots of oil. However, we’re not allowed to drill for it. Our government has essentially ensured that we cannot tap our own resources. How? By creating other scarcities, from animal and plant species to clean air to clean water and other reasons why we dare not tap resources that might create other scarcities.

The tactics used are many and varied – however the most effective among them is fear. Fear that the planet will be killed or destroyed. Fear that we’ll all be wearing gas masks. Fear that we will die because we have no clean water to drink. Fear that if we don’t get our unemployment checks we will starve. Fear that if taxes aren’t raised the national debt will just continue to rise and never be paid off and our children will become slaves. Fear that if we don’t allow the government to grope us at airports we will be blown up by domestic extremists. Fear that if ordinary citizens are permitted to own guns that crime will rise. And the list goes on.

When people are scared they are ever so easy to control. Don’t believe me, think about this – ever been in a situation that scared you? Your adrenaline is pumping, you are confused, you don’t know what to do. And then suddenly some cool-headed person steps in and takes charge, directs other people’s actions, makes things happen and gets the situation under control. Think car accident. Think house fire. Or even family emergency. We’ve all been there, something devastating and terrible happens and we lose it. We can’t think, in some cases maybe we can’t even move. And thank God somebody came along who had a cool head and could think in a crisis. Had they not, God only knows what might have happened – how much worse things might have turned out. And so maybe the next time something terrible happens we look to that person, rather than ourselves to get things under control. We give power over to that person, rather than address the situation ourselves. Soon, whenever that type of situation rears its ugly head, we wait for that special talented person to take care of it for us, perhaps even giving up our own control or ownership of a situation. And before we know it, we think what we are told to think, do as we are told and simply have no choice but to go along.

If you think about it the concept of scarcity is actually pretty ridiculous. Just do a cursory study of planet Earth and all her natural resources – not the least of which is the human race. Without the human race we would not have any kind of machinery, power, agriculture, technology, art, music, literature, etc. Though human beings have gotten a horrible rap of late for their greedieness and consumption, few have acknowledged what human beings have brought to the planet. In fact, if not for human beings you would not be reading this post. There would be no Internet, no computers, no cell phones, facebook, twitter, text messaging nor commerce – heck there wouldn’t even be green technology. I submit that mankind has more than contributed to life on this planet and will continue to do so, as long as it exists. And it is man’s ability to think, consider, and create that has enabled us to evolve and live better, more interesting and productive lives. There is no scarcity of ideas or solutions – yet we seem to be convinced that there are.

Today we are told there is a scarcity of jobs. Well, I suppose that is true in a way – however not quite. If you haven’t been living in a cave you may have read articles discussing the fact that businesses throughout the United States have lots of funds that they are sitting on and not using. They are not hiring and they are not expanding their businesses. The resources are there, but they are not using them. Why? Because the business world is expecting scarcity. They are expecting that their profits will dwindle because of new taxes and government regulations. They are expecting they will not be able to compete and do business without further and additional restrictions, that they will have less control over their businesses, the decisions they can make and fewer options. So, the scarcity vicious cycle is creating even more scarcity than has been created. And this scarcity perpetuates more scarcity – because people believe there are no jobs, that no one has any money and even if there is money that no one will spend it and so they look to the government to make up that scarcity rather than put on their thinking caps and resolve their own situations.

I believe that as long as anyone believes in scarcity, they will continue to be controlled and manipulated. I also believe there is no scarcity of anything, anywhere on this planet. If an animal or plant species dies out, other and new species come along and take their place. When sources of oil or other resources dry out, others are found or resources that can replace their function are discovered and created. If we all just believed in abundance for all of us, perhaps we’d discover that indeed abundance exists everywhere we look.

copyright 2010

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