Scarcity: A Driver of Technology, Specialization, and War

Updated on April 25, 2018
CWanamaker profile image

Chris has a Master's degree in engineering and uses his knowledge to write about a variety of topics from an analytical perspective.

Many of the tribulations in this world can be traced back to the basic problem of scarcity. Scarcity is a fundamental economics problem that is a key piece to understanding how economies work. Essentially, scarcity means that there are a limited number of resources available to supply our virtually unlimited demand for goods and services in our society. A finite number of resources is a limiting factor in any economy. When resources are scarce, it forces an economy to move towards one of three courses: technological advancement & innovation, specialization, and war.

1. Technological Advancement & Innovation

Scarcity of resources, especially ones that are in high demand, can cause technological advancement. For example, when certain raw materials become necessary for a high-demand product, technologies will emerge to attempt to meet those demands. These new technologies will either help increase the supply by finding more sources of the material or decrease the demand for a resource by changing the product to use less material (or an alternative material) or by adjusting the manufacturing process.

Petroleum is one example where scarcity has helped to create technological advancement. The demand for crude oil paved the way for newer oil exploration techniques and better and more efficient drilling equipment. As demand grew stronger still, oil prices began to rise and fuel efficiency became a key component of vehicle design. The cars of today, among other things, are significantly more fuel efficient than those of just 30 or 40 years ago. As more countries become industrialized, the increased demand for crude oil will fuel further technological advancements. The demand for crude oil created hundreds of thousands of new businesses that could capitalize on the industry either directly or indirectly.

2. Economic Specialization

Resource scarcity is a key component for economic specialization among countries, cities, and regions. Because the allocation of resources on this planet is not homogeneous, some countries (or states, cities, etc) will have more resources than others. Saudi Arabia, for example, has a very large stock of crude oil compared to most other countries. Their large supply, coupled with an extremely large demand, has allowed them to specialize in the area of oil production and export. By specialization in one critical area, country can become really adept at mining and processing the resources. This can increase competition in the marketplace while also increasing profits from selling to others. Countries can easily become very rich when the natural resources they have are wanted/needed by the rest of the world.

3. Scarcity Can Often Result in Wars

Many wars have been fought over the scarcity of resources. When a country becomes dependant on a particular resource that it does not have much of, international tensions can rise. The exporting country may see opportunities to use the resource as a tool to get the importing country to do as they desire. Dependant countries may have little choice when deciding whether to cooperate or not, even if it would go against the values of the country. This could be a major source of unrest for the importing county. Other issues can arise when an exporting country decides to cut production of a resource or is the victim of a major natural disaster. In the case of crude oil, a major cut to production could cripple the United States and many other westernized countries. Many experts cite gasoline prices as a key index of the health or potential health of our economy.

In the past, many wars have been fought over natural resources. In some cases the impetus for war was the need for land. Holding land can help secure a variety of in-ground natural resources, preserve areas for agricultural production, or to secure an area for a military advantage. More recently, wars were fought for the control of crude oil. As we've seen, in a world dependent on oil, those countries that own the resources can have unprecedented control on global affairs.

In the future wars may be fought about other resources as well. For example, clean water is a dwindling resource that could become the source of military actions if countries don't find a way to innovate and find water to support their citizens. Another resource that is become increasingly scarce is lithium. Lithium is needed to make batteries to support almost all of our modern technology included electric vehicles.

Final Thoughts

We live a finite world. Our ever growing population and globalization is only limited by the scarcity of our resources and our spirit to innovate. When lithium to fuel batteries becomes impossible to find, a new technology (and thus resource) will arise to replace it. When a country realizes it is sitting on a vast stockpile of that new and useful resource, it will specialize in its production. And finally, when that resource becomes so precious and vital for our survival, wars may be fought over it. Resource limitations have and will continue to be a force of technological advancement, specialization, and war for the rest of humanity.

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 CWanamaker

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • CWanamaker profile image
        Author

        CWanamaker 5 years ago from Arizona

        Thanks. I did have fun writing this article.

      • Gamerelated profile image

        Gamerelated 5 years ago from California

        This is an interesting article. I have a degree in Economics so I can appreciate this. Good work on making Economics interesting.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, soapboxie.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://soapboxie.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)