2006

Writing Contest: Runner-Up

Lost!

Kelsey Stefanik-Sidener, Columbia High School, Columbia Station, OH (Teacher: John Sheridan)

A fiery plan crash. Forty-eight survivors, strangers to one another. A mysterious island in the Pacific. This is the basis for the hit TV show Lost. While Lost contains many themes pertaining to human nature and the struggle to survive in an unfamiliar location, it also includes many themes related to economics. The economics theme most commonly addressed is scarcity. A variety of challenges are presented to the individuals on the island, and this helps to emphasize the theme of scarcity.

The varied backgrounds of the castaways prove to be one of their biggest challenges. Sayid is a Middle Eastern man who faces racial prejudice from some of his fellow survivors. This causes him to distance himself from the group. Jin and Sun are a Korean couple who struggle to communicate with the rest of the group. Jin does not speak English, so Sun must translate everything for him. Sawyer is a con artist whose thirst for power threatens the safety of the entire group. Michael has just gained custody of his nine-year-old son, Walt, after the death of his ex-wife. He will go to any length to protect Walt, even if that means endangering the rest of the survivors. Ana Lucia is an ex–police officer with a history of violence. The problems and conflicts that exist among the members of the group provide the perfect setting to illustrate the economic concept of scarcity.

The characters of Lost are presented with daily challenges that force them to fight for their survival. Another group of people is discovered on the island, and they are extremely hostile. A confrontation occurs between the survivors and the other inhabitants. During this time, the leader of the hostile group says, “This is our island, and the only reason you’re living on it is because we let you.” The discovery of the other group on the island causes a great deal of fear in the survivors, and this leads to more problems. They want to arm themselves, but the guns  and ammunition they demand are in short supply. The guns are kept in a safe, and only John Locke knows the combination. He does not want the others to have the guns because he thinks that it will lead to violence within the group. There is already tension among the castaways, and he feels that allowing individuals to possess the weapons will result in a tragic and perhaps fatal confrontation.

The scarcity of guns on the island illustrates the effect of scarcity. By definition, scarcity is the lack of enough resources to satisfy human wants. It is an ever-present problem, and it forces individuals to make choices. Modern society is often faced with the problem of scarcity. Resources such as fossil fuel, land, and even people can be scarce, and thus individuals, companies, and governments must make choices as to how to utilize them in the best way possible. This issue of scarcity dates back thousands of years and can be applied to countless historical events. For example, when the Pilgrims traveled to North America, space on their ships was scarce. They had to decide which supplies were most important for them to take with them, and the rest had to be left behind.

Although scarcity can be a problem, it can also be beneficial. Diamonds, emeralds, and other precious gems maintain their value due to scarcity. If they were easily obtained, they would not be considered precious and would therefore lose their worth. The same idea can be applied to money. If the government released an unlimited number of $100 bills, they would no longer be scarce. Every person would have them, and our entire monetary system would collapse. Because the government tightly controls the amount of money printed and coined, the U.S. dollar retains its value and our economic system runs smoothly.

The concept of scarcity is effectively presented on the television show Lost. There is a limited quantity of guns and ammunition, and almost all of the characters want to have a gun. They are fearful of the hostile strangers on the island, and they think that having a gun will allow them to protect themselves from danger. Unfortunately, a limited number of weapons are available and one man has a monopoly on them: John is the only character who knows the combination to the safe containing the guns, and he refuses to give the weapons to anyone. This leaves the other members of the group with a choice: find a different weapon, or find a way to break into the safe and take the guns. This difficult decision could have severe repercussions no matter what the outcome. The scarcity of guns has given them tremendous value, so high that it cannot be given a specific amount.

Most people do not watch television with the intention of learning about economics, but many shows today contain important economic concepts. Lost, the hit television show from ABC, is a prime example. Scarcity is reflected through the shortage of weapons and ammunition on the island. This has a variety of effects on the actions of the characters and causes them to make significant choices that could have a considerable impact on their lifestyle on the island. Lost effectively conveys the important effects that scarcity can have on individuals and the society in which they live.

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