The Psychology of a Post-scarcity Society

When the struggle to sustain existence in a world of scarcity is replaced by affluence so absolute that even the incompetents, the ill and the lazy are all able to survive thanks to handouts from government and private sources, the results are far from the paradise imagined by materialists.  In 1971 the prolific political philosopher Murray Bookshin published a collection of essays entitled Post-Scarcity Anarchy. Bookshin prophesied that the burgeoning technology of abundance would make the class struggle between capital and workers vanish.  Like all writers in the Marxist-socialist tradition, Bookshin proffered his pet Utopian vision for a new world where the struggle for existence was permanently won. He called his fantasy “post-scarcity anarchy.”

In Bookshin’s collectivist paradise, mass affluence unleashes a glorious anarchy in social and cultural liberation. This vision was rather like Nancy Pelosi’s hope that Obamacare would release everyone’s inner abstract expressionist and we would finally be free to paint all day. However, Mr. Bookshin was much smarter than Nancy Pelosi. By the 1990s he recognized that his Utopia had not developed, and he blamed what he termed “lifestylism.” He wrote an essay entitled “Blasted Lifestylism!” that blamed selfish, individual materialism for ruining his dream of an anarchist future. In his twilight years Bookshin cooked up “ecological communalism” as solace for his disappointment.

From Trotsky to Chomsky, the tradition of socialist collectivism is a Godless tantrum against human freedom and possibility. It was an intellectually wasted century amounting to flatulence from a corpse because it could never address the significant questions of human experience – the spiritual, moral and psychological needs of man.

Despite the tragic limitation of his intellectual generation, Bookshin identified the most revolutionary fact of contemporary existence, if not world history. It is no longer economically necessary to work in order to eat or morally necessary to marry in order to breed. The cravings of the mind for luxury and for approval of experimental lifestyling have replaced the demands of the body for sustenance and protection from the cold. The preeminent example of the moral shift from scarcity to plenty is the debate about ubiquitous lifestyle abortion. In lifestyle abortion neither poverty nor maternal health is at issue. The life is terminated because of potential impact on parental lifestyles.

The definitive documents of religious and secular law in America – the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and the Constitution  -- were given by God and Godful men in divine presence to bring compassion and justice to the seemingly eternal struggle for existence. These documents are not purposed to guide people through adventures in identity and lifestyles. The Bible and Constitution have had to be abused and broken to extract excuses for such perversions as the right to lifestyle abortion and sexual expression posing as the touchstones of freedom.

It is a cliché to observe that contemporary left-wing politics is a mental illness characterized by fantastical thinking and obsessive hatred. Leading Democrats are recycling monstrous and disastrous policies of the past such as infanticide and centralized government command economics as “social justice” solutions. The widest plank in the Democrat platform emits the stench of burning hatred for our President and contempt for the voters who elected him. This political madness is the distilled ideology of the religious, moral and psychological declines that have accompanied post-scarcity lifestylism. Religious conviction, sanctified lifespan marriage, the ideal of abstinence outside of marriage, loyalty and courage in defense of the nation, self-regulation of varieties of consumption are all ancient, rigorous challenges in the service of survival in conditions of scarcity. These essential components of mental health have become fustian notions in a society where there is no challenge to survival, no material need to curb addictions, and a comforting delusion that it falls to somebody else to defend home and nation. It is the nature of the mind to crave justification and a sense of superiority in one’s viewpoints, however harmful they may be. This is why we hear so much pandering ignorance about “socialism” though it has never been less necessary than it is today. This is why smug elites wrap themselves in contempt for “organized religion,” romanticize drug abuse (especially cannabis), and hate the deplorables who love America, take responsibility for their own armed defense and still try to follow Judeo-Christian moral ideals.

Scarcity-Driven Psychology

Post-Scarcity Psychology

Choices are guided by religion, morality and law

Choices are guided by self-directed ethicism in the service of experimental lifestylism

Physical work and military service is respected

Religion, morality and law are devalued

Religion defines good and evil in relationship to God

Politics defines good and evil in relation to society

Anyone can go through a temporary downturn and have to crash on Aunt Judy’s couch for a few weeks, or succumb to illness and have to depend on others for a time. But today mentally competent people are stuck in chronic lack and dependence not because of material scarcity, but because of habits of immorality. This is a radical change in the conditions of life. Post-scarcity does not mean the absence of hunger and that everyone has a nice place to live. Post-scarcity means that material problems like hunger and homelessness no longer have material solutions, they have moral solutions.

Progressivism purchases the souls of its victims by offering money to solve moral problems. Take for instance the left-wing myth of the hungry children. I have searched for the hungry child in the dank trailers of backwoods Oregon. I lived in Appalachia for eight months searching for the underfed child. Could not find him – only obese children everywhere. Any child going to bed hungry in America is suffering more psychologically than physically as a victim of criminal child neglect. There will be food at school tomorrow, but the neglect will continue. Throw daddy and mamma in the hoosegow and see if food is found for the child.

Similarly, lifestyle “homelessness” is caused principally by substance abuse and an unwillingness to do whatever work to rent whatever room available. Lifestyle homelessness is an artifact of post-scarcity attitudes. Sojourns in urban tent cities are made mainly by people who are confident they will eat, get their drugs, and keep their civil liberties without working. And they are usually right.

Now we hear the impassioned plea by Democrats: free college for everybody! Dramatis persona in this fiction is the ambitious, sober youth thirsting for knowledge but barred from the chance of higher education. Nonsense. Post-scarcity America created the luxury of a vast system of public community colleges and universities. Anyone willing to work and study can get a higher education without massive debt in the bargain.

Perhaps the millions of illegal aliens and the even more millions of children they are having will overwhelm the technology of abundance and cast Americans back towards the struggles of scarcity. Perhaps that is the ultimate purpose of open borders for globalist overlords. For now, we are grateful to live in this time of abundance, and rejoice in its spreading around the world. We hope it will be preserved for our posterity, when there may be more wisdom to match the wealth.

Image credit: Good Free Photos

If you experience technical problems, please write to