What’s “Scarce” These Days? Borrowers, Spenders, and (Hence) Profitable Investments.

For the moment, let’s go with old saw that “economics is the study of scarcity.” (Though I disagree with it; the proper study of economics is human reaction functions.)

What’s scarce these days? Certainly not supply. In an 80%-service economy suffering high unemployment and a unprecedentedly low labor/population ratio, higher demand for massages is not gonna slam against resource-supply constraints. And in the goods sector, there’s just-in-time inventory/supply chains (making it essentially a service industry). If Apple gets an extra million iPhone orders, supply constraints won’t prevent those orders being filled (or cause a price increase).

So what is scarce? Borrowers. Spenders. People to buy those massages and iPhones.

I’ve gone on at length about the shortage of loan demand, even in the depths of the so-called “credit crunch.” (See Related Posts at the bottom of that post for yet more.)

How about spenders? Let’s consider what it could be, could have been. If wages had increased since the 70s at the same rate as worker’s productivity, median wages today would be about $90,000 a year — nearly double what they in fact are.

You really gotta ask: would there be more spending (hence demand, hence production) if that reality were…today’s reality?

Would savers and entrepreneurs have more incentive to invest in risky ventures if hundreds of millions of Americans were enjoying those kinds of incomes, and spending to match?

As Francis Coppola, John Aziz, and others have been explaining at length of late, economics today should be concentrating on the study of abundance.

Cross-posted at Asymptosis.