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Author Topic: The Hoarding Instinct  (Read 2864 times)
bb113
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February 05, 2012, 01:27:01 AM
 #1

Background:
The other night I wanted to roll a cigarette. I had tobacco but had run out of paper. I searched but couldn't find any papers lying around anywhere. Just now I tried to roll one soon after washing my hands. For those who don't know, damp fingers interfere with rolling the paper. In the past I have discarded these papers, even though they would probably be usable once again after they dry out. This time, I "automatically" (hey I should save this in case I run out of fresh ones) stored it away for future use without really thinking about it.

Hypothesis:
It is possible to increase the perceived value of an item/currency/whatever by causing people to go through periods where they do not have as much as they need/want at the moment.

Discussion:
I have heard stories of people who lived through the great depression becoming hoarders. Also, companies may purposefully limit the production of the first run of a new, highly hyped product. Is there evidence of governments trying to capitalize on this instinct to increase the perceived value of their currency? Does "panic buying" become more prevalent after a cycle of cheap-> expensive -> cheap?
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February 05, 2012, 02:51:53 AM
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"Waste not want not." It's in the bible.  Tongue

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February 05, 2012, 10:53:03 AM
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I do not like the term "hoard".  It seems completely subjective and rather useless for economic discussion.  However, in answer to your question, I don't know of any specific examples of governments deliberately trying to ensure people "hoard" their currency, though you could argue that the expansion and contraction of credit by central banks is related to this idea.
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February 05, 2012, 11:07:59 AM
 #4

i categorize saving/hoarding in the same thought process that compels people to get high scores in computer games.

it's always fun to make a new high score, and to see your wallet balance higher than it's ever been before.
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February 06, 2012, 11:13:38 AM
 #5

i categorize saving/hoarding in the same thought process that compels people to get high scores in computer games.

it's always fun to make a new high score, and to see your wallet balance higher than it's ever been before.


only apply to certain people I guess

I used to use game modifier to change my wallet ballance to 1 billion and play the rest of the game with limitless money, then it is not more interesting make higher score or make more money in the game, I can enjoy the other aspect of the game

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February 07, 2012, 04:35:19 AM
 #6

Yes, I also believe humans are psychologically affected by scarcity, and that all of our economies are based on this.

The fact that something is always plentiful means we don't need to make any effort to preserve it - eg sunlight is taken for granted.

If this changes and it becomes scarce, causing some form of emotional connection between hardship and loss of resource, if the resource returns it is valued more than what it was prior, until memories falter.

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February 07, 2012, 05:10:27 PM
 #7

i categorize saving/hoarding in the same thought process that compels people to get high scores in computer games.

Not at all. People hoard money for reasons similar to building a house, getting a job, marrying etc. Unlike purely instinctual creatures such as the Ice Age squirrel, people have an intimate relationship with the notion of risk and predictability. Most people, given the choice, are rather risk-averse and don't follow the old "carpe diem" adage.

Whereas a guy living paycheck to paycheck might have a tough time starting a business, a thrifty guy that has some savings will not have to chose between his business and a meal. Limiting present consumption to supplement for future risks (and enable  future risks that are currently unacceptable) is a basic feature of intelligent creatures when faced with an unpredictable reality.

While a cave man would have stored fruits and salted meat for rainy days, the modern man hoards money - in effect limiting his current consumption of actual goods and services towards other members of the society in the hope that some day they will reciprocate the favor. When you save money you are crediting the society - your savings are not the money itself, they are just tokens of your contribution; all money is debt by definition.
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February 07, 2012, 07:29:08 PM
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Define hoarding. Is it different than normal saving? How?
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February 07, 2012, 11:55:30 PM
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Define hoarding. Is it different than normal saving? How?

I imagine he means it to have the same difference as between say, saving for 2 lifetimes, and saving for 10.
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February 08, 2012, 08:33:48 AM
 #10

I personally don't attach a negative connotation to hoarding. I could see how hoarding could be perceived as a more extreme version of saving, but that is not what I meant. To me, hoarding has a primal connotation and therefore jived well with instinct.

... I don't know of any specific examples of governments deliberately trying to ensure people "hoard" their currency, though you could argue that the expansion and contraction of credit by central banks is related to this idea.

This was what I was getting at.
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February 08, 2012, 09:49:16 PM
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Quote from: HunterBunter
I imagine he means it to have the same difference as between say, saving for 2 lifetimes, and saving for 10.

To me this is still not an adequate definition.  Saving more than you can "use" is a sufficiently abstract and nebulous concept that I don't consider it useful to discuss without further clarification.


I personally don't attach a negative connotation to hoarding. I could see how hoarding could be perceived as a more extreme version of saving, but that is not what I meant. To me, hoarding has a primal connotation and therefore jived well with instinct.

... I don't know of any specific examples of governments deliberately trying to ensure people "hoard" their currency, though you could argue that the expansion and contraction of credit by central banks is related to this idea.

This was what I was getting at.

Ah, very well then.  The tendency from central banks seems to be the opposite of your example, whereupon governments attempt to stimulate spending by increasing the money supply which actually puts a downward force on the value of the currency.  There's certainly a tremendous amount of economic literature regarding credit and interest from a wide variety of sources.
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February 09, 2012, 04:46:49 AM
 #12

Right the usual narrative is that governments are are chronic debtors so they like to inflate their currency. Or they inflate currencies to prevent deflationary spirals.

I am suggesting that there may be circumstances for which it is advantageous to limit liquidity and thereby increase the perceived value of a currency. This probably wouldn't work since the usefulness of a currency is dependent on its ability to facilitate trade though.
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February 19, 2012, 09:06:12 AM
 #13

I hoard my coins.
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February 20, 2012, 08:54:22 PM
 #14

Hypothesis: It is possible to increase the perceived value of an item/currency/whatever by causing people to go through periods where they do not have as much as they need/want at the moment.

Whoa. That's... like... deep, man. (Congratulations on discovering microeconomics.)
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February 21, 2012, 12:12:16 AM
 #15

Background:
The other night I wanted to roll a cigarette. I had tobacco but had run out of paper. I searched but couldn't find any papers lying around anywhere. Just now I tried to roll one soon after washing my hands. For those who don't know, damp fingers interfere with rolling the paper. In the past I have discarded these papers, even though they would probably be usable once again after they dry out. This time, I "automatically" (hey I should save this in case I run out of fresh ones) stored it away for future use without really thinking about it.

Hypothesis:
It is possible to increase the perceived value of an item/currency/whatever by causing people to go through periods where they do not have as much as they need/want at the moment.

Discussion:
I have heard stories of people who lived through the great depression becoming hoarders. Also, companies may purposefully limit the production of the first run of a new, highly hyped product. Is there evidence of governments trying to capitalize on this instinct to increase the perceived value of their currency? Does "panic buying" become more prevalent after a cycle of cheap-> expensive -> cheap?

Careful with the word, there's a well known psychological bug that bears the name.  There's a TV show about it too.  It refers to the inability to part with material possessions.  IMHO this doesn't have much to do with artificial scarcity or the currency/commodity manipulations you describe.   
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February 22, 2012, 03:28:16 PM
 #16

tl;dr version:  I hoarded toilet paper in college.

Long story:
In college one Sunday morning (while living in the dorms), I had to go to the bathroom.  So of course I go to the closest bathroom, but it's out of toilet paper.  Fine, just go down the hall... no toilet paper.  Ugh.  Go down a floor (I lived on top floor (3 stories)), check bathrooms.  No toilet paper, you've got to be shitting me!  (pun intended)

I finally found some in the lobby bathroom (of all places), but the lobby is usually disgusting.  This was no exception that day.  So I swiped out the remaining toilet paper roll (I left the one on the hook, but just took the spare) and took it upstairs to "my" bathroom.  Was happy.
 
But later that day I got thinking, so next day (Monday) when they cleaned the bathrooms and left new spare rolls of toilet paper, I swiped a spare to keep in my room.  But then that got me really thinking.  Everyday, except the weekends, the bathrooms are always replenished.  So about twice a week I'd grab a new spare roll, and keep it in the closet.  My roommate thought I was a little nuts... that is, you see, until one weekend he went to use the bathroom and discovered no toilet paper.  Smiley  He then asked if he could have one of my spares (I had about 20 by this point), then he no longer gave me any shit (again, pun intended). 
 
By the semester's end, I had about 50 spare rolls. Smiley

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February 22, 2012, 06:40:53 PM
 #17

tl;dr version:  I hoarded toilet paper in college.

Long story:
In college one Sunday morning (while living in the dorms), I had to go to the bathroom.  So of course I go to the closest bathroom, but it's out of toilet paper.  Fine, just go down the hall... no toilet paper.  Ugh.  Go down a floor (I lived on top floor (3 stories)), check bathrooms.  No toilet paper, you've got to be shitting me!  (pun intended)

I finally found some in the lobby bathroom (of all places), but the lobby is usually disgusting.  This was no exception that day.  So I swiped out the remaining toilet paper roll (I left the one on the hook, but just took the spare) and took it upstairs to "my" bathroom.  Was happy.
 
But later that day I got thinking, so next day (Monday) when they cleaned the bathrooms and left new spare rolls of toilet paper, I swiped a spare to keep in my room.  But then that got me really thinking.  Everyday, except the weekends, the bathrooms are always replenished.  So about twice a week I'd grab a new spare roll, and keep it in the closet.  My roommate thought I was a little nuts... that is, you see, until one weekend he went to use the bathroom and discovered no toilet paper.  Smiley  He then asked if he could have one of my spares (I had about 20 by this point), then he no longer gave me any shit (again, pun intended). 
 
By the semester's end, I had about 50 spare rolls. Smiley

There was probably no toilet paper because someone else thought of this before you and stole the toilet paper.  Across the hall the guy might have had 100 rolls.

This is why there is no toilet paper provide in some countries.  Restrooms in private and public places do not provide toilet paper.  This is because people will steal all of it from the restroom.  A person has to carry paper everywhere  they go.

Introducing constraints to the economy only serves to limit what can be economical.
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February 23, 2012, 09:07:55 AM
 #18

Hypothesis: It is possible to increase the perceived value of an item/currency/whatever by causing people to go through periods where they do not have as much as they need/want at the moment.

Whoa. That's... like... deep, man. (Congratulations on discovering microeconomics.)

Well this post might have been stupid, but not for the reason you're giving.
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February 23, 2012, 11:38:55 AM
 #19

There was probably no toilet paper because someone else thought of this before you and stole the toilet paper.  Across the hall the guy might have had 100 rolls.

This is why there is no toilet paper provide in some countries.  Restrooms in private and public places do not provide toilet paper.  This is because people will steal all of it from the restroom.  A person has to carry paper everywhere  they go.

Ah, the tragedy of the commons.  How I love thee.

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February 24, 2012, 01:42:54 AM
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Here in Mexico City, the government will sometimes outright cutoff the water supply specially in dry and hot weather like in March or April. This forces us to "hoard" water even if water is available most of the time. The norm for constructing a house is to have a "tinaco" which is a like 1000 litre barrel of water on top of every house. In apartment complexes, besides having several tinacos we will have a "cisterna" which is like a mini well on the basement that hold several thousands of liters of water. These are not very efficient because they are usually made of cement and water filters out gradually. In extreme cases we will save water in buckets and 20 litre bottles, just so that when the cutoff lasts several days (sometimes weeks) we can at least brush our teeth and cup bathe This is not just in poor neighboorhoods, it is habitual in middle class and even rich houses.
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