Does the fact that something is abundant mean it is not scarce in the economic sense? Why or why not?

Whether something is abundant or scare often depends upon circumstance. In America, before COVID-19, we could have said there was an abundance of toilet paper. When COVID-19 hit, toilet paper turned into a scarcity. Here we see how unforeseen crises, more than economics, influences what's abundance and what's scare. We see how economics can turn an abundance into scarcity when in Flint, Michigan, emergency managers tried to save money by changing how its residents received their water.

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Overall abundance does not mean that scarcity does not exist in certain markets or for certain people. This is because many factors can make an abundant resource scarce for some. Temporary crises (like the current COVID-19 pandemic, or hurricanes) illustrate how abundant goods can quickly become scarce, but this is...

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Overall abundance does not mean that scarcity does not exist in certain markets or for certain people. This is because many factors can make an abundant resource scarce for some. Temporary crises (like the current COVID-19 pandemic, or hurricanes) illustrate how abundant goods can quickly become scarce, but this is a slightly different issue. Even within a nation-state, an abundance of a resource may exist throughout most of society, even though others find it inaccessible.

High-speed internet access, for example, is widespread and abundant throughout much of the United States. However, in some impoverished and rural areas, internet access is quite scarce. In rural areas, this is because of the difficulties in establishing the infrastructure needed to facilitate internet access.

Additionally, fresh vegetables and other foods that are in abundance throughout most of the United States are highly scarce in many inner-city "food deserts" where few retailers exist that are eager to sell them. Therefore, many Americans living in poor, inner-city areas have less access to healthier foods than others. There is no overall shortage of fresh vegetables, but because they are seen as less profitable to market to some people, they are not available to many. In short, the overall economy is more efficient in generating profits for some than in providing goods and services to the greatest possible number.

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When we talk about abundance and scarcity, we should remember how vulnerable these terms are. Something that's abundant one moment could be scarce a couple of moments later on.

Let's look at toilet paper in the United States. Before COVID-19, most Americans probably wouldn't have said that there was a scarcity of toilet paper. Yet once COVID-19 reached America, so many people were stocking up on toilet paper that it became scarce. Here, we see abundance turn into scarcity due to an exceptional crisis.

Such crises tend to render the economic aspect irrelevant. It's not that toilet paper suddenly became super expensive to produce or transport. It's that the makers of toilet paper simply couldn't keep up with the demand caused by COVID-19.

We can see how economics plays a factor in abundance and scarcity when it comes to the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

In 2011, Flint had a budget deficit of about $25 million. To help save money, Flint's emergency manager terminated its 50 year policy of piping in treated water from Detroit. Instead they piped in untreated water from the Flint River. The lead pipes contaminated the water, which led to a scarcity of safe water for Flint residents.

Here, we see how economic factors turned an abundance into a scarcity. Before the switch, Flint residents didn't have to worry about their water. After the switch, Flint residents had to concern themselves with how much water they had used, since their water source was mostly limited to bottled water.

With Flint, we also see how racial and class considerations play into abundance and scarcity. If Flint was not predominantly people of color, if it was not one of the poorest cities in American, would authorities have opted to endanger their abundance of water?

It's a question for you to think about in terms of how economics, race, and class all come together to determine who receives abundance and who's left with scarcity.

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In an economic sense, if something is abundant, then it still might be scarce. Scarcity means that some resource is limited. Abundance means that there is plenty of a resource. There are several examples of a resource that might be abundant but, in reality, is really a scarce resource. One example is water. In some areas of the world, there is an ample supply of water. People who live near the Great Lakes, for example, have a good supply of water. However, if a person lives in a dry climate, such a desert, water would be a scarce resource. The same would be true if the water supply was abundant, but the water was polluted and unusable.

Another example would be oil. In some parts of the world, there is plenty of oil that is easy to extract and refine. As a result, the cost of getting this oil is affordable and profitable. In other parts of the world, the oil is so deep in the earth, that it is too costly to get the oil from the earth. While there may be a good supply of oil available, it is not extracted from the earth because the cost is too high to do so. There also is a limited supply of oil, even in places where it is easy to extract and refine.

A third example is the resource of time. Every person has 24 hours in a day or 1440 minutes each day. That may seem like a lot of time, but if a person has too many activities planned during that 24-hour period, there might not be enough time to accomplish everything. This person might have to make choices about how to use the time available that day. On the other hand, a person who has very little to do might feel like there is an abundance of time in a day.

There are various factors that impact if a resource, which may appear to be abundant, is really an abundant resource.

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