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Not enough sand?

After going over the course syllabus in an introductory economics course, one of the first things an instructor will discuss is scarcity, that there are not enough resources to satisfy all of the wants for that resource.   While it is easy to see that there are not enough cancer doctors or not enough petroleum or not enough diamonds for all of our wants, it seems that there are some things that do not seem to be scarce, that there is plenty of it.  For instance, think of something like sand.  One look at the vast quantities of sand in the Saharan desert, and one gets the idea that there is plenty sand.

Yet sand is often scarce.  For instance, I had a few holes develop around some storm drains.  After stepping in one, I decided to put an end to them.  I went to Lowe’s and got some gravel and sand.  Lowe’s made me pay for the sand.  I was willing to pay for the sand because it was scarce, at least in my yard.  If I had all that I wanted and could get it without going to the Fourchon Beach or to the Sahara, I would.  I can’t, though.

If that does not convince you that sand is scarce, read this article in the Washington Times by Cheryl Chumley about how beaches in Florida are running out of sand.  With the outer edge of the continental shelves not far from the Florida shores, beach sand is being washed out and off the edge of these shelves.  Dredging for sand just is not going to provide them with enough sand.   They are looking at a different substance, glass, which, of course, is made from sand in the first place, to replace sand on their beaches.  Yes, even sand is scarce.

One lesson to be learned here is that anything someone will pay for is scarce.  Market prices are good indicators of scarcity and good measures of scarcity.  However, even if there is no market for some things, that does not mean that scarcity is absent and we have plenty.  As we see in the case of public goods, we might have a scarce good or resource, even though there is no market for that good.  This is the case where people will not pay for something when they can free ride for that good.


119 Responses to “Not enough sand?”

  1. KP says:

    Out of the many things in the world I would not have thought of sand as being scare. However, this is definitely true especially throughout hurricane season in South Louisiana.

  2. CO says:

    Sand is scarce because the importance of sand is very much high because of the many uses it has especially to buildings and roads and beaches and things of that sort.

  3. SW says:

    This article has opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed. Sand, out of all things, can be scarce. This statement lets me know that anything on Earth can be scarce. Which makes me think about water. A big percentage of Earth is made up of water, yet in some countries it is scarce. Of course you can’t just go up to an ocean and drink its water, but its still interesting to think about.

  4. GB says:

    I never realized that sand loss was an issue, but this article shows that it is. With hurricanes and erosion sand loss is actually a huge factor and tourism will go down in Florida if beaches are not there. One thing that that could be a solution though is that all the tourist profits that are coming into the Florida economy can pay for more sand to keep the beaches in Florida.

  5. Kp says:

    I agree with the fact that sand is becoming scarce. we overlook this because of the small necessity needed in our everyday life. Yes, glass is made from sand and other things are too. They are things we use everyday, but glass has its alternatives. This is a reason we overlook sand. As said in the blog sand was bought, and i’m pretty sure it wasn’t cheap. Places such as Florida, are running out of sand due to erosion from hurricanes. This is why sand is becoming a scarce resource.

    • KP says:

      Definitely agree that we do look over the smallest things in life such as sand. It is a necessary item in protecting house during the hurricane season from water. And we need to become more aware of this problem especially with erosion taking it away.

  6. MH says:

    After reading this article, I discovered a whole new meaning for the word scarcity. Before, I thought of scarcity as something that has a small amount of something. After, I realized that only something could be scarce if there is not a lot of it in a certain area. This new meaning has shown me that even though there can be an abundance of a resource in an area, it could be totally scarce in another area. I also learned that if there is scarcity of a resource, then the want for that resource can increase dramatically.

  7. ED says:

    I had no idea sand was scarce, nor did I realize the price differed depending on your area. The beaches in Florida are washing away just like land is here in southern Louisiana. With sand I guess I just thought they could dredge some from the bottom of the ocean and it would be fine. this article was definitely an eye opener.

  8. HC says:

    I never realized that sand was scarce, but after reading this it clearly is in some areas. I guess we do not realize what is actually scarce until we need it. For example, you needed it for your yard so you had to go buy some. We only really pay attention to these things when it is convenient for us which applies to self interest and social interest. Someone mentioned going to the Saharan Desert to get sand for free, but whose interest in that in? Is it social interest to bring enough for everyone or just those who go get it? How much sand is “enough” to bring back?

  9. CB says:

    I am almost a two full days into this course and I am already seeing the world in a new way. Scarcity plays a huge part in our everyday lives and I have never been aware of it before. The example given, that sand is scarce, seemed to be ridiculous at the beginning of the post, but I can understand why one would say that. I think it has to be the same type of example as the price of seafood after the BP oil spill. It killed a lot of them so they were scarce, and the price of them skyrocketed.

  10. BD says:

    Intriguing. Following this train of thought, one could say anything scarce. I have always been a stickler for what I prefer. I will pay for what I feel is necessary and worthy my earned income. Much of the populace will only see things completely in retrospect. One day we may learn to purchase what is necessary, not what is desired.

    • GB says:

      yes, but sand is necessary in Florida because lots of money flow in Florida comes from tourists that come into the state and spend money at the resorts and beaches. Spring Break is one example that makes Florida flourish in money.

    • CO says:

      To be honest with you, I feel the same way because i will not pay for anything i do not feel is worthy of my time or anything

  11. CO says:

    I did not realize sand was scarce but after reading this it makes since to me. Everywhere is not the desert or the beach which is filled with sand so that means it is scarce in those areas. For everything you buy most likely the harder it is to find it where it comes from the more expensive it will be.

    • CB says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that sand couldn’t be scarce, but I agree with this statement. Something that just came to mind though, since we have an abundant supply of sugarcane in Louisiana, is the price of sugar less in our state than in others that don’t have as much? I’ll have to look into it now.

  12. GP says:

    When I started reading this, I thought that there was no way that sand could be that scarce. I learned that it really is not that scarce in some parts of the world, but in some places sand is really difficult to acquire. It is really crazy how the prices vary depending on how much sand is in your area.

    • SS says:

      I see where you were coming from, when thinking that could was not scarce because when I think of sand the first thing I think of is beaches. We have the many beaches running down our coast line and in California. Sand seems like such a common thing resource. It makes sense that anyone would pay for something they want but is not so plentiful it would be free. Growing up I remember my dad always coming home with sand bags during hurricane season. I don’t know how much they were, or even where he got them from, but I’m sure they weren’t free.

      • mcoats says:

        Often, sandbags for blocking rising water is provided by the parish or the county, usually for free. However, the parish has to pay for them. The cost to the homeowner for the sandbags is that you usually have to fill them yourself.


    • KP says:

      I totally agree with your post,GP. I also, did not believe that sand could be considered scarce. I had no idea people bought sand to make up for it, let alone pay a high price for it.

  13. DH says:

    I understand this concept, but at the same time another factor that must be taken into consideration is convenience. If you need sand why not head to the Saharan Desert and obtain sand there. Since there is a surplus it would be free. The reason you pay for it is for convenience. Now that was an exaggerated example, but going to the beach and getting sand there could be done. Paying for convenience is something anybody will do.

    • JN says:

      I’m not sure I would agree completely about it coming down to convenience. I think it ultimately comes down to whether or not your “want” for a certain outweighs your “want to actually getting it”. Take your desert example for instance, if you’re willing to actually go get the sand then your “want to actually get it” outweighs your “want” for the object and thus you will find a way of obtaining it. But if aren’t willing to go out of your way to get something because it’s inconvenient then your want outweighs your “want to actually getting it” and therefore you won’t make the effort to get the object. And that’s where the scarcity comes into play.

    • SH says:

      Sometimes convenience does not always win people over. Major life choice, to spend six bucks on body wash at CVS or to wait till I go into a store that sells it cheaper. I’ll pass on that everyday because the point of it being that much more expensive is ridiculous.

    • KP says:

      After reading your response, I can see where you are coming from. I see now that paying for sand would be a “convenience”.

    • BH says:

      I totally agree with your statement because anyone who may need something, but does not have to get it themselves will definitely take the easy route. Paying for convenience is why everything dealing with trade or travels are super expensive because, it is more suitable for the individual to get something delivered.

      • mcoats says:

        While many things may be scarce, one thing that isn’t is something like whining. Some others would be dishonesty. meanness, and irresponsibility.Notice a pattern? Things we would pay go get rid of are not scarce.


    • JN says:

      Paying for sand makes it less of a hassle then going get it yourself. It’s just like milk, you not going to go milk the cow to get milk, you just will buy it out the store to save the hassle of milking that cow.

    • CO says:

      I disagree with you saying we are paying for sand out of convenience. Yes it is more convenient for someone to buy it from where they are from instead of traveling to get the sand. But you will be spending more time and money by going there instead of just getting it from your local store.

    • MH says:

      I agree with this statement. I think that convenience has a lot to do for why people pay for something that is scarce. No matter what, people are always going to buy something that is convenient to them, compared to going out of your way to obtain something for a cheaper price. I like how you used the example of going out and getting the sand in the Sahara. Yes, this can be an extreme exaggeration, but if you think about it, if there is a surplus of a resource, wouldn’t you think more people would take advantage of it rather than buying the sand for convenience?

    • Kp says:

      i would not agree as well of it being a convenience. as said in the blog sand is scarce, so taking it from its natural site is increasing the scarcity. If places such as Florida beaches are losing sand, why just go there to get it for free? your adding on to the problem but i do understand where your coming from. It depends on how much you may need or want the sand, buying a certain quantity amount of sand may not be the most smart choice but it is effiecient when you can just get the sand for “free” and a beach. Well the actual price is that sand is scarce.

  14. RL says:

    When you describe sand as being scarce, even with the abundant supply on Earth, it really makes you think of other items that you wouldn’t normally consider being a scarcity. This makes me think back to when I previously lived in Arizona and sand was everywhere you looked, but grass was very scarce. Our entire yard consisted of only rocks. We purchased grass from the local nursery to plant a small section in the backyard. Most people in south Louisiana would not even think about having to purchase grass because its everywhere here. This topic is one of many we have discussed that has made me start looking at things differently when I go to the store for something. ….RL

    • JN says:

      Grass is a very good example of something that would seem to be very abundant on Earth but looking into a specific area it would be scarce. Your post in particular made me think about what kinds of other things would fall into this category. The first thing that comes to mind is water. Water is clearly very abundant in the world, with the ocean making up 71 percent of the Earth. But do you think that one day our supply of drinkable water will be a scarce resource? Even in today’s day and age I think water is a scarce resource depending on where you are. A desert, very abundant in sand, has a scarcity of water. It makes me wonder if sand and water have an inverse relationship on scarcity and abundance in particular parts of the world.

    • ZL says:

      Before reading RL’s post I never thought of grass being a scarce resource since I was born and raised in Louisiana. Since we have so much rain and humidity grass grows just about anywhere. RL’s post really stud out to me because I have never experienced a shortage of grass in my life. Yes erosion is an on going problem where I am from which reading about a shortage of sand doesn’t really surprise me much. Now when I complain about cutting grass I am going to remember that not everyone has the luxury of having grass.

  15. IB says:

    After reading this article, I believe sand is scarce in some ways. When you refer to Florida beaches washing away, then yes it’s obvious that there is not enough sand to replenish the sand that is disappearing. When people buy sand for certain needs they are probably taken back at the price because most people think a source like sand is plentiful. Yes, granted it is plentiful in some areas such as the Saharan desert, but on the beaches where you would think there would be an abundant supply sand is scarce.

    • HC says:

      I agree with this and it all goes back to my comment about how people do not really think of things like sand or grass being scarce until they need it. For example, the earth is about 71% water yet the people in California are limited on the amount of water they can use since they live in the desert. For the more southern states such as Louisiana where this is not an issue we do not really think about how people in California are limited to how many times they can water their plants in week or wash their car.

  16. CM says:

    I find that scarcity is based primarily on location or in some cases time of year. In a place where sand is in abundance like in a desert state something like seafood might be scarce. Or for instance crawfish are scarce in the winter unless it is frozen. Scarcity is not only based on is there a lot in the world it is also based on the area of interest.

    • IB says:

      I totally agree with your comment, i believe that after reading this article the real meaning of scarcity depends on location. I mean where could sand just disappear to, but in my opinion it is all about where there is a shortage of sand and not necessarily a total loss of sand in the world.

      • mcoats says:

        IB, we will have to be careful with the language here. We will see that while scarcity is the natural state of the world, “shortages” will actally mean that there is less than desired at the going price. We will see soon that this in not such a natural state of the world.


    • CO says:

      I agree that scarcity is not only based on location but also time. Things are more available during certain times than others. Just like fruits have different times of abundance and good quality.

  17. JN says:

    Due to coastal erosion sand at the beaches will always be scarce. We will always have to purchase sand living in the south or even living along the coast. Water rises every minute and its cause us to lose land and even sand. People make a living by selling sand and other people making a living by providing relaxation on beaches. Just imagine a beach without sand and it would just be a bayou. So with that being said sand can be scarce in certain location.

  18. OA says:

    After reading this blog, i would say that anything that we are willing to pay for can be referred to as scarce. Sand may be present in abundance in the whole world, but certain regions do not have that luxury. They may not have adequate sand available to them; therefore, they won’t have any other option other than buying the sand from somewhere else, which will make it a scarce resource. If it was available in abundance, we wouldn’t demand or pay for it in the first place. Yet, it doesn’t mean that sand can’t be scarce if we don’t demand or pay for it. It all depends on the resources available in the particular area.

    • JN says:

      I believe to a certain extent that you are right. People usually have to go buy something that they do not have, which is scarcity for that item, but that is for materials only. Scarcity can be face in many other ways. For example, I can have everything in the world, but if I do not have love, then I would be facing scarcity for that. The thing about that scarcity is, I cannot really pay for it.

  19. RB says:

    For something to be considered scarce, it must first be desired or needed. Anyone in an area that desires or needs resources, will one day face scarcity from exhausting those resources. America as a whole can look at the beaches of Florida and claim that sand is becoming scarce, but for someone who lives in Florida, who has little need of sand, can say that there is plenty to go around. The same goes for the Sahara Desert. It has no need for sand, therefore it isn’t considered scarce in that area.

  20. BH says:

    After reading the article, man factors came to mind that I did not think about. For example, I know that hurricanes happen a lot in Florida, but I never thought a sand shortage as being an issue. In addition, it is an expensive task to import sand from the north. The question that everyone should being asking is simple, What happens to the beaches when the sand mine dries up?

  21. JR says:

    Its hard to believe that even the littlest of things we take for granted can become scarce. I would have never imagined that sand can become a scarcity. After reading the article, I realized that we need to appreciate every aspect that nature provides. I see a vast amount of sand at the beaches in Florida and never stopped to think about where it all came from or that Florida is running low on sand; I really enjoyed this article.

  22. KP says:

    Scarcity can be defined as the fundamental economic problem of having seemingly unlimited human wants in a world of limited resources. With that in mind, I would have never thought that sand, such a huge resource could be considered scarce. I thought that sand was everywhere and never imagined it was something that people would “pay” for. This post proves that something doesn’t have to be nearly nonexistent to be defined as scarce.

  23. JN says:

    Before I read this blog, I never really thought of anything being scarce until something is running out. When I first read the title of the blog “not enough sand,” I immediately thought, “how is it possible? There are so much of them around the world.” After reading the blog and the articles, I understand what the title means now. Scarcity does not just mean that it is running out, but it is when people do not have a lot of access to it for their convenience. This change my thinking quite a bit.

    • GP says:

      I completely agree with this comment. Nobody really thinks that some things could become scarce, but all it takes is something simple like a hurricane hitting an area.

  24. TT says:

    I’ve never thought of sand being scarce because it is along every coast and it also completely covers a desert. But from reading this blog i realize that it might not be exactly scarce depending on where you are located but in places without the abundance of it, it is scarce. I would say people have to pay a good bit more for sand in like a city area if they needed it compared to someone who lives along the coast or around the desert.

    • IB says:

      I agree with what you are saying. I was really confused on how there can be a shortage of sand because i guess from living in the south that is all we have is sand and mud. I never really thought of sand being scarce but after reading that article i totally agree that it makes a lot more sense of haw sand can be scarce.

  25. JB says:

    I completely agree that sand is scarce in some areas. Where I am from, river sand was pumped from the river and into a lake building a grass-like area for campsites at a campground. The sand in this action was free because it came from the river, but in other places, this act would have cost some money.

  26. JE says:

    Sand is becoming limited on supply in the world. In other words it is becoming very scarce. This causes the places that do indeed have sand to raise their prices. In other places such as Nevada, which has deserts, sand is free. It’s all about supply and demand.

  27. KL says:

    Yes sand may be scarce, but it all depends on location. A middle eastern person wouldn’t pay for sand unlike someone who lives in south Louisiana. People here cannot walk in their back yard and build a plethora amount of sand castles. In conclusion you could say that scarcity falls hand and hand with supply and demand. High supply equals low demand and lower costs. Low supply, like the Lowe’s situation, equals higher price (price for something you’d normally pay nothing for).

  28. LV says:

    After reading this article I was shocked to learn how scarce sand really is. When you think of the world and all the sand that is in it you never really think about the states or countries that are far removed from regions with a lot of it. This problem of sand scarcity boils down to what region you live in.

  29. LT says:

    After reading this blog and following the links provided I believe that sand is scarce and is becoming more scarce, like so many other things in the world. However it is all about the location of the sand that makes it scarce. Although there is still an abundance of sand in the world it is in parts where it is not used or wanted like the desert for instance. Places that it is scarce increase the price because it is less readily available.

    • LV says:

      I agree and never really thought about something as small as sand like that. I always thought of it as a commodity since we live in south Louisiana, but there are some states who don’t have much sand resources.

    • ML says:

      I agree everything in the world is sooner or later going to become scarce. I never thought sand would be one. I would expect the store to charge for sand because they have to pay the larger companies that provide the item. If i needed sand and live or was near by a desert or a shore line i would gather as much as needed.The stores charge for the scarcity of the items and for the convince for you.

    • KL says:

      I agree. Scarcity certainly depends on factors like location and wanting more of an item when it is not as readily available as some resources.

    • JE says:

      I agree with what you are saying. As I have stated in my comment, it is all about supply and demand, so depending on where you are located depends on how expensive sand will be. I’m not sure if you would know or not, but do they actually make use of the sand that is in the deserts?

    • MS says:

      I can definitely agree with you. I also think that every substance is somehow able to scarce, it is just depending on its location. Although there are parts of the world in which more than enough sand is located , it is possible that even sand is scarce. As long as a substance is not everywhere easily available, its price is increasing.

    • JS says:

      LT, I believe that you are very precise when you stated that “is is all about the location of the sand that makes it scarce”. Locations such as Florida have an easy access to sand unlike places like Alaska. The scarcity of sand is very much dependent on the location. Sand is naturally made unlike many goods and products that we have today. I also agree that places that do not have a lot of sand have a high price for it. I have been to Florida several times, and seen that there prices for sand are not as high as in other locations due to easy access the product. Places that are scarce of sand can increase the price due to less access to the resource.

  30. BS says:

    I never really looked at sand as if it could run out. Sand is almost alone every coast and more in the deserts. I actually brought of souvenir that had sand in the bottom of the bowl. I guess it depends on where you go in the world. In a place like Florida where you could find sand almost anywhere, sand shouldn’t be scarce. Sand becoming scarce will be someone like Louisiana where we don’t have plenty of sand surrounding us.

    • mcoats says:

      BS, Notice that it is exactly Florida where they have been shipping in sand to their beaches, because they have lost so much. They are also considering finely ground glass as a replacement.

  31. KR says:

    Sand is getting scarce. Where I live i had to pay a lot of money to fill holes and make a driveway. My father and I did it for our self-interest. We were willing to pay a lot of money for sand to get the job done.

    • KL says:

      Could you have not used something more abundant to fill holes? Like dirt perhaps. On the other hand, sand is scarce and if it is needed like you say, you will have to be willing to pay whatever you need to pay to get it.

    • JE says:

      where are you from? and what kinds of jobs did you and your father do that involved buying sand? I’ve never done any jobs that involved the use of sand so I’m very curious.

    • OA says:

      I will agree with KR that sand is getting scarce, but it isn’t becoming scarce only because we pay for it; it’s just the depletion of a natural resource as some resources that we don’t pay for can also be scarce.

      • mcoats says:

        Scarcity is not caused by us paying for it, but rather, us paying for it is a sign, an indicator, that it is scarce. That is what a price is, an indicator of scarcity. For instance, by making some that is scarce free, we do not erase its scarcity, but rather hide its scarcity, like painting over the indicators on a thermometor so you cannot read it does not get rid of a tempature.


    • BS says:

      Sand is becoming more expensive then concrete. Sand is a great source to fill in pot holes. If its more scarce where you live, you should try using a substitution.

  32. GR says:

    Like many of the other post above, I also find it intriguing that something we have so much of, like sand, can be considered a scarce resource. When we think of all the abundant resources that we often go to the store and pay for, its not until then that you realize the actuality of its scarcity. For instance like sand, water is a scarce resource. The prices for bottled water constantly goes up, for US citizens we can access water by simply turning a handle to the faucet. But other countries such as Africa are not as fortunate. The materials that are considered scarce are different all around the world.

  33. HB says:

    It is astonishing and quite eye opening learning that something that seems so abundant is scarce. In the article link above, I could not believe that Florida, a major tourist location known for its beaches, is losing its beaches. Scarcity is truly everywhere. Even though a resource may be abundant some place else, it may be scarce in another location.

  34. MF says:

    I have to agree LB, it is hard for us to comprehend that sand in some areas is scarce considering that in general, it is so easy for us to access sand. Furthermore, like you stated, we should never run out of glass meaning that manmade sand should always be available if needed.

  35. MF says:

    It would seem most absurd at first thought to even for a minute consider the possibility that Florida beaches are running out of sand. However, the article from ‘The ‘Washington Times’ entails us to give a thought about what really is happening to resources that we take for granted (beaches in Florida). I do believe, however, to say sand is become scarce in Florida is a touch extreme. This is because scarcity of sand in Florida wouldn’t be noticeable to us as there are many beaches in Florida. However, it would seem more understandable to say sand is scare in New York. I believe it really boils down to the location of area, the supply and how easy it is to get hold of sand for reliability to suggest sand is becoming scarce.


    • kb says:

      I agree completely that to say sand is scarce depends on the location. To outsiders I don’t think people would really notice sand in Florida disappearing, unless it is extreme, because like you said there are so many beaches. But if sand were scarce in the Sahara Desert, that would definitely go noticed by the world because that is all that the Sahara Desert has.

    • JB says:

      Yes! I agree completely with the location having an effect on scarcity. Its just like people paying outrageous prices to order lobster in Louisiana.

  36. BDL says:

    Scarcity occurs when our human wants surpass the resources available to satisfy them. Scarcity has always existed and it affects everyone locally and globally. An example of scarcity on the global level would be the growing water crisis in South Africa. South Africa has limited resources and with an ever-increasing population, the country has been having trouble meeting the demands for water. An example of scarcity on the local level (US) would be the scarcity of sand in Florida as referenced in this blog.
    After reading the title of this blog, my first thought was how we could not have enough sand. When I first moved in my house, I wanted to level my yard so I purchased sand from a local company. The sand was readily available. Louisiana does not have a problem with sand scarcity; however, other states are not as fortunate. According to The Washington Times, Florida is one of the places where sand is scarce. Short-term solutions such as trucking sand from nearby counties in central Florida has worked thus far, but it is not a long-term solution. Leaders must come up with a solution soon because the shortage of sand will leave the beaches of Florida susceptible to environmental conditions such as coastal erosion.

    • mcoats says:

      Anytime you pay for something, it is scarce. It is only not scarce if there is as much or more freely available than people’s uses. If sand were not scarce, it would be free.

    • GR says:

      Scarcity is different all around the world, depending on many different basic factors such as wealth and resources available. Every individual has different means of money and different access to the resources in society.

  37. JV says:

    Scarcity can also be found in intangible goods. Like a sporting event. If you have a favorite player, eventually they will retire. You are willing to buy tickets to watch them play but eventually it will end. Its happening right now in MLB. 2014 is Derek Jeter’s last year as a MLB player. Every stadium he plays at, ticket sales are increased so fans get a chance to say “Farewell to the captain”. Im sure if people could watch Michael Jordan play another game they would pay top dollar for those tickets.

    • LV says:

      As a sports fan I’ve never really thought of favorite athletes that way. I will pay a good amount of money to watch one of my favorite athletes play just to say I saw them in person before retirement. I never about the scarceness of athletic ability as they age.

    • JB says:

      I completely agree! You are paying for the convenience of a scarce item.

  38. JS says:

    In my opinion, sand basically is free. I think that our human nature forces us to want the bigger and better things, which is why many things are scarce. If you really think about it, we could easily drive to Grand Isle and pick up some sand to bring home, but it is easier to just go to the store and buy it. Water is another example. We could drink free water if we really wanted to, but no one wants to drink nasty pond water or rain water from the ground, so we go and buy clean, bottled water from the store.

    • mcoats says:

      Where the sand is and the transportation costs of getting it from where it is free and not scarce to where it is not free and is scarce needs to be considered.

    • JS says:

      JS, I must disagree with you about sand being basically free. Not every individual in the world or United States has a Grande Isle or a beach that they could go to get sand. Places further north do not have a coast that they could easily drive to. I do agree that scarcity could be based on human wants and needs and that is is natural for us to want more. Yet, I have to disagree that sand is basically considered free. Sand is naturally made and constantly being produced due to natural elements of the earth. But we have to consider that every location does not easily access this certain product.

  39. TC says:

    Like others have previously stated, I would have never imagined such an infinite resource such as sand to be considered scarce. After all, sand is everywhere isn’t it? This makes me have an entirely new outlook on the concept of scarcity. I’ve always thought that scarcity meant that there was almost “no more” of something. I think that many people look at something like sand and think there there is no way that we could ever run out of it. It is not until something like “paying for sand” comes up that people realize, something doesn’t have to be nearly nonexistent to be considered scarce.

    • JS says:

      I agree with your statement about having a new outlook on the concept of scarcity. The thought of not having enough sand someday is weird to think about. I think the scarcity of sand will always be only in some areas.

  40. FJB says:

    This puts thing in a whole new perspective for me. I would have never thought about an item such as sand to be a scarce resource. This also made me realize that specializing in production is not only an international issue but it could also go as deep as state to state. If one state has abundant amounts of sand and the other large amounts of fresh water, the trade in these commodities will benefit both parties with the least amount of effort.

    • Cw says:

      I agree with you FJB. Being from south Louisiana it seems you somehow have been to a sandy area. To think that something so close could be scarce really brings things into perspective. You would now have to look at it as, “Hey, I need 10 pounds of sand.” “OK. That’ll be $15.00” outraged customer… “$15.00, I’ll go get my own”. Now the individual acts in self-interest but not a rational choice. Now, $60.00 in gas later plus time and effort he won’t get back, he has his sand!

    • BS says:

      I agree with you are saying. If a state or country has a lot of something, why not trade for it? I never really knew of sand being something that people would trade for.

  41. LB says:

    Like Florida, I can recall sand getting imported to Grand Isle after Hurricane Katrina. It’s funny to think of sand as being scarce, since it seems to encompass such large areas all over the world. You would never think that we’re lacking the substance, but I guess everything has to run out at some point, and it seems that only certain areas are lacking sand. Thankfully, there is manmade sand, so unless we run out of glass, then we should never actually run out of sand.

    • mcoats says:

      You would think we would not run out and we probably won’t run out of sand, but it will remain, in some areas, scarce.

    • lm says:

      I agree with your comment that everything runs out at some point. An interesting thought, if glass is made from sand, and we run out of sand, will we run out of glass as well? In that case, can we really continue to make sand?

      • mcoats says:

        Remember, it is not a matter of running out, but having fewer low cost sources, causing us to turn to more costly methods. Then, when those higher costs lead to greater profit potential of new technologies to replace those items. This is why there is really little worry about running out of crude oil. As our use of one source pushes costs up for that one source, other, currently more costly sources, suddenly become less costly. Now, we get crude for oil sands, while this was hard to imagine 30 years ago. As we use more and more, the costs go up (one of the costs of crude is not just the cost of bringing the oil up, but also the opportunity cost of selling it now instead of waiting to sell it later for a higher price when it is relatively more scarce. Speculators drive up the current price of oil when they think future prices will be higher–keeping us from running out. The future users compete with current users through futures markets and the actions of speculators. Speculators keep us from running out.

    • mcoats says:

      MLF, it is not a matter of running out. That is not what scarcity means. Rather, it is a matter of not having as much as we want for all of our uses of sand–and where that sand is. Notice that moving to artificial sand is far more costly, you would think, than just getting sand from some place. This is the law of increasing costs–trying to get more and more means we have to start using a more costly approach.

    • TC says:

      I agree, thankfully we have man made things to help us renew things that run low. I, too, remember the sand being transported to Grand Isle. Funny concept, a beach needing sand. But like you said, “everything runs out.”

  42. BA says:

    When I first started reading the blog I thought to myself, how can sand be scarce if it is everywhere? That is just the thing though, sand is not everywhere. The example of someone’s back yard is a good example to use. It is not readily available when needed and becomes something we have to pay for. Depending on the area you are located in you will face scarcity for different goods. Everyone faces scarcity because no one place can supply a person with everything they want and need. It is crazy that Florida of all places faces the problem that sand is scarce. That is one location I was not expecting to have that problem. The environmental pressures have led to less and less sand on their beaches. Never take something for granted cause you have plenty, you may see a day that it becomes scarce.

    • mcoats says:

      Be careful about scarcity. It does not mean running out, but just not having all we want. We will look at a similar concept later, the idea of shortages. This is when stuff is not available at the going price.


    • SA says:

      I agree with you. When I read this I would have never thought that sand would be scarce, but like you had stated sand is not everywhere like we think it is. I also would think one of the last places that would be scarce would be Florida. I also agree that we shouldn’t take anything for granted and now I will definitely start looking at things differently.

    • MS says:

      I fully agree with your comment. As soon as I started to read the article I got quite confused at the beginning, because I could barely imagine that sand can be somehow scarce. After reading this article I am able to understand now this phenomenon. Whenever a substance is not available somewhere it can scare, even though it is existing at many different places in the world.

  43. dl says:

    I’d have to agree. I do believe that sand is scarce and that one day it might become a problem, but I also know that sometimes things are exaggerated. For example, OIL is a non-renewable resource. It was estimated many years ago that the world should have run out of oil by now–take a look around. Does it seem like we have run out yet? The truth is that technology grows at a rate faster than we can make accurate predictions about these kinds of things. So using that same judgement, I would assume that before not having enough sand became a problem, that technological advances will have pulled through to solve this problem of scarcity.

    • mcoats says:

      DL, one of the problems we see with something like oil is not that we will run out, but that we have to take more drastic measures to get that extra bit of oil. I remember when oil sands were thought to be uneconomic to get to. Not anymore. This is the idea behind the law of increasing costs or the law of low-hanging fruit.


  44. mcoats says:

    Yes, it is not just the what that is scarce, it is the where. Even in Florida, at least according to the article, sand is scarce in some places–they want more than they have freely available, which means it is scarce. A good rule of thumb: if you or somebody else has to pay for it to get it, it is scarce.

  45. lm says:

    Although we would all love to have no limitations on the goods we can have, scarcity is a necessity in the business world. If everything was available and free, we would have no incentive to work or make the world a better place. On the other hand, it is easy to take items like sand for granted. It seems like we have an unlimited amount, but the article proves that even places best known for their beaches are now discovering that sand is not always readily available. Scarcity is both a blessing and a curse for the business world.
    Oil prices are also a good example of scarcity. When the oil field is doing well, customers are happy because gas prices are lower. But the minute the oil field has some sort of issue and oil becomes limited, the prices hike back up.

    • mcoats says:


      I am not sure that scarcity is ever really a blessing. It is what it is.


    • mcoats says:

      I am reading a book now, called The Zero Marginal Cost Society where the author suggests that capitalism needs scarcity. I am waiting to be convinced.


      • FJB says:

        I could agree with you on this one. I believe marginal cost needs to be in place in order to provide checks and balances, but scarcity will cause people/nations to make irrational decisions

        • mcoats says:

          FJB, people as individuals make rational decisions, they will do the vest they can for themselves as they see it, weighing the benefits and costs against one another. I hope we will have time at the end of the class to see how when we make group decisions, as in a democracy, what results is hard to call rational.


    • LB says:

      I agree that nearly everything seems to be scarce or lacking at some point. The lack of availability makes it capable of selling.

  46. SP says:

    Infinite human wants and finite or limited amount of resources leads to scarcity. Considering all the deserts in the world such as Sahara desert, Gobi desert one would not have considered sand to be a scarce resource, however for beaches in Florida and South Carolina that are running out of sand, it would be a scarce resource for them. A little girl taking a bucket of sand home to play can do so without paying however a construction industry in India would have to pay for the sand. Only considering the availability and quantity, sand is less scarce for the little girl and she can get away without paying for it, however, for the construction industry that doesn’t have easy access to sand and has high demand for sand at the same time will face scarcity and high cost for buying sand. A good example would be in the construction industry in Nashik which faced 50-60% increase in sand price.


    • BA says:

      I believe it is exactly that, the availability of the good in the area that makes the price. It is supply & demand. What is scarce for some is plentiful for others.

  47. vg says:

    Sand can be expensive depending on where you live. If you live in Nevada, sand is free. They have plenty. Sand in Hawaii or even Louisiana would be expensive. Hawaii actually had all there sand barged to them. Sand is not originally from there being the islands are built off of magma. Same thing with dirt. Up north in the mountains people have to pay to get dirt removed, but here in Louisiana you have to pay to get it. It all comes down to the available resources in the area.

    • SP says:

      I agree with the statement “It all comes down to the available resources in the area.” as if the resource are easily available and in large quantity then people consider the resource to be less scare and vice-versa. This also affects the price of the resource as if the sand is easily available the price can be as less as zero and if if there is high demand for huge quantity of sand then the price will go up.

    • BDL says:

      I agree with the statement that it all comes down to the available resources in the area. While one resource may be abundant in one area, it may be scarce in another area. For example, there are many places in Louisiana that can provide crawfish to consumers. However, in places such as Virginia, there are limited resources/places for consumers to eat crawfish. Therefore, the price of crawfish in that state will be much more expensive than the price of crawfish in Louisiana.

    • JV says:

      Yes regional is a huge factor in scarcity, but so is seasonal. Even sand has seasons. There is more sand in the summer than the winter due to smaller calmer waves. If you buy sand during the winter it will probably cost more than it would if you bought sand during the summer

    • HB says:

      Exactly, price depends on availability. It is as simple as that. During the summer the price of gas raises. Grant it, gas prices are already high even though it is available to us. Imagine how high gas prices are in a place where gas is not abundant.

    • KR says:

      I agree, sand in louisiana can get expensive. Location does play a roll. Up north, they use sand to make the road better to drive on after a winter storm or blizzard.

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