EXT. MEDICAL CENTER - DAY Charlie, Bob, and Penguin - now all pixelated - exit the Medical Center. BOB: I still can’t get over that you still pay for health care! This is THE FUTURE, Charlie! I thought you people are supposed to be enlightened and advanced! (sputters incoherently) CHARLIE: Look, I get that a lot of the books and movies from your time led you to believe that there wouldn't be money in the future, but it’s called science fiction for a reason. EXT. CITY STREET - CON'T As they walk, we see all kinds of incredible futuristic objects and designs, luxe and modern robots that interact with humans and fancy architecture, to the more mundane such as older couples gardening together in their yards, children playing with pets -- which are occasionally robotic -- and holographic advertisements for various products. CHARLIE Obviously we have way more awesome stuff than you had back then, and none of the necessities like health care or food cost us much today... But "abundant" and "infinite" aren’t the same thing. BOB Pfft. CHARLIE You can’t just wish away scarcity... BOB (disappointed) Aww, man! You're telling me that even with all this-- (gesturing around) --you still have limited resources?? EXT. PARK - CON'T Charlie, Bob, and the Penguin walk into a park filled with people, flowers, and trees. They stop in the middle of the park. We can still see buildings in the more distant background. CHARLIE Well... Yeah. One thing that's never really changed is that people have pretty much infinite wants. No matter how good we get at creating more robots, cars, houses, food, computers and whatever else we need with the resources we have, people keep dreaming up new ideas and want to make things we haven't even thought of yet. BOB Like taco-flavored ring pops! CHARLIE Nah, we have those. A LITTLE GIRL walking by with her mom pulls a ring pop out of her mouth. CHARLIE Plus, limited material resources isn't the only kind of scarcity. We're always going to have limited knowledge-- BOB --Pff. Not me! CHARLIE And limited skills. BOB Nope! CHARLIE Ha. Ok, fine. But even you have to admit you have limited time. BOB So do you, so I still win! Charlie rolls her eyes. CHARLIE The point is, we still need to know if we're using our time and resources effectively, so we need a way to measure value and pass that information on to other people. That's what money and prices are for. But we can talk about that later. BOB Ugh. Do we have to? CHARLIE Scarcity also means we have to deal with trade-offs. INSERT: A BOY is playing fetch with a ROBOT DOG -- but the dog is throwing the ball and the kid is running to go get it and bring it back. CHARLIE The materials that go into making that robot dog can’t also be used to make a spaceship at the same time. Back on Bob. BOB A spaceship!? You mean, you finally invented space!?? CHARLIE Uh... Sure, Bob. But look, do you know what an opportunity cost is? BOB: (rolls his eyes) I know, I know. When I’m watching TV instead of learning how to hypnotize chickens, that’s an opportunity cost. CHARLIE: I-- sure. (confused) Technically. Yes. (gathering herself) All the things you could be doing instead of whatever you’re doing right now is your opportunity cost. It's up to you to decide what's worth more to you. Maybe watching TV is more important than hypnotizing chickens. CU on Bob. BOB Until the chickens hypnotize you! CHARLIE Could they do that in your time!? We come back to the 2-shot and now Bob is holding a CHICKEN. Bob is trying to hypnotize it. BOB There's no proof they couldn’t! CHARLIE Wow. Bob pauses his attempted hypnotism and turns to Charlie. BOB So... If I understand this right, we needed to pay that doctor because his time, knowledge, and resources are all scarce. CHARLIE Yep. BOB But how exactly does money help him with that? Scarcity doesn’t go away just because you paid him! CHARLIE Of course not, but it helps help him figure out what he should expend his limited resources on. What if he spent all day treating scraped knees instead of Flagnar's Syndrome? BOB Fla--what? CHARLIE Oh, right. Ok, what if if he tried setting up a hospital somewhere totally uninhabited-- BOB --Like the moon? CHARLIE Oh we colonized that. I was thinking more like Portland. (continuing) If he set up a clinic in a place like that, he wouldn't have anyone to treat. And the fact that he wouldn't get paid would be a really good sign that he should move his clinic somewhere else... Or at least find some other way of creating value for people. Bob goes back to trying to hypnotize the chicken. BOB (not listening) I’m listening... Bob’s eyes start spinning, and it becomes clear that he’s the one who actually got hypnotized by the Chicken. The Chicken puts on a pair of glasses and explains in a proper British accent. CHICKEN (to Charlie) Darling, you must explain this in a way that the simple fellow can comprehend. (to Bob) Young man, we want to do as much as we can with as few resources as possible. And we want to make sure that what we're doing with those resources is actually valuable. That's what prices are for. The more people want to have something, the more they're willing to pay for it. And higher prices tell the people who own or make those goods and services that they should produce more of them and bring them to the places and people who want them the most. BOB (clucking) Bu-kah! Penguin slaps Bob, breaking the trance and sending the Chicken fluttering into the air. BOB Wow, GMOs have come really far... CHARLIE What the chicken said! We have a lot of stuff to go around, sure... But we still have to economize somehow. BOB: Economize? That sound suspiciously like budgeting. CHARLIE: That’s basically what it is. But it helps everyone lead better lives. It’s pretty liberating, once you get the hang of it. BOB: Well I’m still confused and I don’t like it! CHARLIE You’re in luck! WIDE Charlie points to a sign on the building in the background. INSERT: We cut close on the building's entryway and can now see that it says ‘HALL O’ ‘GRAMS’. CHARLIE Someone here can explain it better than me. BOB: (clearly not excited) Hooray. BLACK AND WHITE NEWS REEL NARRATOR: Next time on a very special Common Sense Soapbox… CHARLIE Did you figure out what to spend the money on? Bob is standing next to a vending machine BOB Yep! Gonna get me some pepper jack cheeseballs! CHARLIE Oh, I don’t think they have those in that machine... BOB AH! What a cruel and dystopian future!

Common Sense Soapbox

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About this show

Short videos with a punchy, comedic tone and entertaining Socratic characters taking on trending issues and important concepts from a classical liberal perspective, written & animated by Seamus Coughlin.

November 12, 2019

Bob is now pixelated, but still confused about why, in this ultra-advanced future society, people still have to pay money for health care. In "Bob to the Future Part III: Scarcity Is Real and Not Going Away" our intrepid hero learns the importance of allocating resources... from a chicken.


CREDITS:
Written by Seamus Coughlin, Jennifer Maffessanti, and Sean W. Malone
Animated by Seamus Coughlin
Edited by Sean W. Malone

LINKS:
https://fee.org/articles/the-science-fiction-of-scarcity/
https://fee.org/articles/economists-and-scarcity/
https://fee.org/articles/abundance-and-scarcity/
https://fee.org/articles/income-is-determined-by-the-scarcity-of-your-contribution-not-the-value-of-human-worth/
https://fee.org/articles/who-ignores-the-principle-of-scarcity/
https://fee.org/articles/affording-it-all/