Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

The event of toilet paper shortages of March 2020 was our societal initiation into the peculiar COVID-19 era. Now that we are currently facing global supply-chain shortages, people are once again starting to engage in hoarding behavior. The attempt to accumulate scarce goods when confronted with shortages is an understandable response. However, is it a good strategy? From a superficial standpoint, hoarding seems like an optimal strategy, especially when assessing the present market conditions. But being fixated on the current supply shortages does not take into account downstream consequences of hoarding behavior. Whether it is the toilet paper shortages of 2020 or the current supply shortages of 2021, all supply shortages present us with a Prisoner’s Dilemma. This observation is most likely true of all supply shortages past, present, and future.

By definition, a Prisoner’s Dilemma is a situation where players (in this scenario shoppers) believe it is in their best interest to adopt noncooperative strategies; but create suboptimal results. For example, consumer’s hoarding scare commodities can have the following consequences:

 1.) Consumers’ opting to hoard a scarce product will only exacerbate current shortages.

2.) The intensified stress placed on the supply chain from hoarding will be reflected in skyrocketing prices (absent any price control measures, e.g., price gouging laws).

3.)  Private firms may decide to place purchasing quotas on specific scarce goods.

4.)  The increased potential for violent interactions when attempting to obtain scare goods.

While many people may think buying every last roll of toilet paper is a good strategy, several potential ramifications suggest otherwise. Hoarding results in forms of strategic purchasing that pits shopper versus shopper. Consequentially, engenders many social and economic externalities.

14 thoughts on “Prisoner’s Dilemmas- VII: Hoarding

  1. I’ve often thought of the Bible story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes feeding the crowd of 5,000.
    It’s also possible, Jesus knowing Human Nature, knew everyone in that crowd had a stash of food for themselves, and starting with the 7 loaves and fishes, his example inspired everybody to contribute to the common good by overcoming their selfish self-seeking/satisfying ways?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s an interesting observation. There is some Biblical precedence for conservation and avoiding gluttony.

      It’s interest find the same insights in Lockean thought. Then again that shouldn’t be too surprising considering John Locke was a Christian and makes many allusions to Christianity/God in the Second Treatise of Government.

      Some moral principles appear to be transcend, regardless of the source of the wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. A little bit of Bible History. Ancient Babylon some 2700 years ago is the Biblical model for the 1st Nation to reach Imperial Military-Economic Super Power Status, able to dictate the terms to the poorer, weaker Nations in the area of the World of that Time.
          With the Writing on the Wall record, the Imperial Mantle was transferred to Ancient Persia, then Greece, then Rome, then the Roman Catholic Church, then to the 247 year British Empire upon which it was said the Sun would never set.
          After WWII, that Imperial Mantle Super Power Status was transferred to the US, the Latest, Greatest of them all with 0ver 800 Military Installations all over God’s Earth, but also the most short lived of them all, now in decline.
          What is interesting to note, is Ancient Babylon the 1st is now called Iraq and Persia is now called Iran, as that Ancient Bible History is repeating itself in OUR Times.
          The Tail struck the Head, leading to the unravelling of the Biblical Babylonian system described in the Revelation of Jesus Christ,
          And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
          For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
          And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues.
          For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

          There is a more recent Historical record in The Kansas City Times, September 13, 1976, with much more information than these brief excerpts,
          “He came to town for the Republican National Convention and will stay until the election in November TO DO GOD’S BIDDING: To tell the World, from Kansas City, this country has been found wanting and its days are numbered […] He gestured toward a gleaming church dome. “The gold dome is the symbol of BABYLON,” he said.” […] He wanted to bring to the Public’s attention an “idea being put out subtly and deceptively” by the government that we have to get prepared for a War with Russia.”

          That 1976 FUTURE is NOW with the Revelation of the details GENERALLY unfolding in the spirit of the letter.
          The World is waking up to see TAmericans may hasten “its days are numbered” part of the 1976 Vision, and waits with bated breath.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. That rule seems to be prevalent in contemporary thought. Yes, we should act in our self interest, but to what end? That’s kind of where some of Locke’s insights regarding waste and gluttony come into play. Sure you can horde items. All because you can do something doesn’t make it necessarily moral. Especially if you accumulating more goods than one individual person can reasonably consume before expiration.

      Conversely, I do favor private mechanism for enforcing such measures versus state-sanctioned purchasing quotas. I think censure and shame are effective informal enforcement mechanisms.

      Liked by 1 person

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