I feel like Wikipedia may be misleading me in a subtle or egregious way.

The very first line of Scarcity is: "Scarcity is the limited availability of a commodity..."

It does, of course, helpfully provide that "a commodity is an economic good or service that has full or substantial fungibility..."

My question, then, is: Does it really make no sense in economics to discuss the scarcity of non-fungible goods?

(In the interest of full disclosure, my interest in the subject is mostly related to thinking around whether post-scarcity has anything at all to say about non-commodities, but that's quite a different set of questions.)

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    $\begingroup$ What is an example of a non-fungible good? $\endgroup$
    – Herr K.
    Jun 11, 2019 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ An original Picasso is an example of a non-fungible good. It's certainly scarce in that there's a limited quantity -- namely, one. It's not a commodity, for the same reason (there is no substitute for unique items.) $\endgroup$
    – Bill Clark
    Jun 11, 2019 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ Time is always scarce, because it's always fleeting. IDK if that's typically considered a "commodity", but time is the ultimate scarcity. $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2019 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


For completeness, you might want to include the definition of Fungibility as well: "In economics, fungibility is the property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are essentially interchangeable, and each of its parts is indistinguishable from another part."

If you have a collection of objects, and each object is (in some relevant sense) interchangeable with any of the other objects, then they are fungible and thus a commodity. If there aren't very many of them, they may be scarce.

However, if you have a collection of objects, none of which are interchangeable with any others in a relevant sense, then they are essentially unique objects. You could still say that they were scarce (there is only one of each) but not that they are commodities... though in practice, people typically don't refer to unique objects as scarce.


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