Why can’t everything be free?

I assume the question is whether there’s a better way to allocate resources than the market.

Relatedly, the question is whether scarcity can be eliminated, and whether its elimination will make it unnecessary to allocate resources by a principle according to which some receive more than others. If so, then the only principle we’d need is Marx’s: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

Can scarcity be eliminated? Some say that capitalism has artificially multiplied our needs. The idea is that in order to prevent crises stemming from weak demand, capitalist societies create desires for unnecessary things. Without capitalism there would be no need to create these “false needs,” and we would be able to determine what we truly need. If our true needs turn out to be simple and straightforward, we can achieve the elimination of scarcity.

Since we don’t know in advance what our true needs will turn out to be, we can’t know that we’ll be able to eliminate scarcity with respect to them. But for speculative purposes let’s distinguish between things the unavailability of which causes death, and things whose unavailability does not cause death. The first kind are needs, and the second kind are wants.

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