When we think of something being “scarce,” most of us tend to think of it as something difficult to find. For example, in some places, meat is somewhat scarce. Canned goods and toilet paper have been pretty scarce for months now. Things like that.
Yet, for an economist, scarcity simply means that there’s not enough of anything for everyone to have as much as they want. It’s the reason some things cost more than others.
Over at the Foundation for Economic Education, they have a post up that also points out that scarcity also applies to security.
A common joke in the American gun community goes something like this:
Q: Why do you carry a gun?
A: Because carrying a cop is too heavy.
This humorous quip should not detract from the fact that many individuals in the United States (including me) own and carry a firearm for purely pragmatic reasons. The simplest case for the right to keep and bear arms can be summarized in one sentence: You are ultimately responsible for your own safety and security.
Understanding Gun Rights
This sobering pill can be difficult for many people to swallow but that’s reality. Evil exists in this world. Under the right circumstances, people can and will do unspeakable things to each other as any student of history or psychology will know. Those fortunate to live in gated communities and can afford armed security are often oblivious that most other people do not enjoy the same luxuries.
The economist Thomas Sowell reminds us, “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it.” Security also happens to be a scarce resource. There’s simply not enough boots on the ground that can guarantee all 300 million Americans will be protected at all times from all threats. In every emergency, tough decisions will have to be made. From what we know about past and present “continuity of government” plans, ruling elites will be evacuated to a secure bunker in some undisclosed location while John Q. Public will be left to fend for himself.
The author, Aaron Tao, is dead-on accurate with this one. I’m going to tell you to go to and read the whole post because it’s really damn good.
More importantly, though, he’s right. Security, like any other form of labor, has a certain scarcity. The more scarce it is, the more it costs. At some point, those costs outstrip people’s ability to outsource it.
Think about it. People will gladly pay a neighborhood kid to cut their grass because the kid charges a price they’re willing to pay. They won’t pay a professional landscaping company because the scarcity of their skills–they do more than just run a lawnmower over the grass–requires they charge more for their services.
Now, keep in mind that landscaping is far more affordable than private security.
The scarcity for those skills drives the price way up, which means that people are now in a position where they’re required to handle their own security instead. And don’t try to say that the police will take care of that. In Castle Rock versus Gonzalez, the Supreme Court ruled that the government isn’t responsible for failing to enforce a restraining order. In Warren versus the District of Columbia, the same “public duty doctrine” noted that the government’s role to protect the people is really to society as a whole, not to any individuals.
In other words, you’re out of luck if you expect the government to protect you.
That means it’s up to you. It’s always up to you and has always been up to you. Sure, you can outsource it if you can afford it, but if you can’t, then you need to step up and take care of business yourself and protect you and your family.
Now, let’s apply that to times of scarcity as most people think of it. Times like right now.
Do you really think the rules suddenly changed? Does anyone in their right mind believe they would? No, things get ramped up to 11 when there’s not enough security for everyone and people are desperate for what you might have.
No wonder so many people are buying guns. It’s almost like they understand this on a visceral level.