In the last blog, we said that people must have the essential resources (water, food, and shelter) and that those essential resource exist in two different states:

  1. Scarce and Accessible OR
  2. Scarce and Elusive

One can live in scarcity while securing minimal resources: enough to eat, drink, and have shelter. However, minimal shelter, as well as lack of stockpile, with time increases exposure to illness, threats, or sudden shocks; increasing the chances of chaos and agony and ultimately premature death. Consider how it would be or is when a natural disaster hits and entire communities run out of resources. Looting and unsafe conditions follow.

The expansion of the essential resource therefore is normal. It prevents and reverses the agony and chaos – the drive to do more is less of an option and more of a charge to prolong harmony and order and escape the agony and chaos through consumption and thereby expansion of lifespan. The value of life expansion is in its steering people further away from agony and chaos. This is one of the reasons why we see so many people want to migrate to the United States. The immigration itself is an exchange of resources between two parties.

The US government provides shelter – allowing us to live here – in exchange for our fungible resources: our intellectual ability and/or our investment in a business on a US soil that supports other US Citizens. It expects that the exchange of its shelter will produce fungible resources that is at least above our individual consumption.

Now, lets see how those two resource states compare:

Scarce and Accessible – when the resources are in a state of scarcity, yet accessible to us, we have either the ability to make the resource  or the ability to acquire the resource. In either case, we require physical and intellectual abilities.

e.g. when in need of bread: bake my own or obtain it from someone else.

If we cannot make the bread or cannot make enough of it, then we try taking it from those who make it available if they have it in excess. Essentially, we can obtain it by exchanging with one of the 3 essential resources we own. For example, we can provide shelter for a loaf of bread.  In sum:

  1. Since the resources are scarce, we need to make resources or have the means to obtain them.
  2. We must have intellectual and physical abilities, at the least typical, to either make or obtain resources.

The scarce resources are accessible only because there is an established public control over all the resources that we require. If we need bread, we know where to find it and what it would take for us to acquire it. Because there is clarity and predictability about obtaining the resource, which is also a reward that we are seeking, we can positively determine the required abilities and obtain them in an orderly manner. Our commitment to build the required abilities to obtain those rewards are therefore high.

Scarce and Elusive – when the resources are in a state of scarcity and elusiveness, we must have an ability to make the resource or the ability to find the resource and then the ability to take the resource.

e.g. when in need of bread: bake our own, or find where we can obtain it first and then take from someone else.  

The uncertainty about resource access creates a disorderly and obscured environment. The required abilities to generate the resources become less precise since the clear path to payoff and in the same context the requirements to get to the payoffs are inconsistent, sort of a moving target. The payoff is not clear because one is generally unsure about the outcome of individual efforts. There is uncertainty about the types of capabilities and how many redundancies to build in order to make the efforts effective since the resources exist in an uncontrolled, unpredictable manner.

  1. Since the resources are scarce and elusive, we need to make resources or find them first and have the means to obtain them.
  2. We must have competitive abilities and develop multiple and possibly redundant abilities to position competitively for access to resources.

With that in mind, we know that we need the essential resource and know that they are scarce, yet to some people the path to their acquisition is clear, but to most it is obscure. We are quick to judge individuals from the development world, without deeply understanding some of the drivers behind people’s actions, their efforts, and their behavior. When one is expected to work hard to get a loaf of bread, but the person is unsure whether the efforts will produce the expected reward, the motivation to put up the efforts diminishes. In an environment where the resources are elusive, working hard on one thing will not necessarily produce the expected reward - possibly explaining the stubbornness of the poverty trap!