Kulturgüter sind Positionsgüter


Antiques and coveted paintings are not normal goods. They are, in the language of economics, positional goods. Fred Hirsch, in his 1976 book The Social Limits to Growth, divided the economy into two parts, namely, material and positional. The material part produces goods like food items, clothes, cars, television sets, washing machines, shoes, umbrellas and so on, whose production and supply are regulated by market forces, keeping in view the changing volume of demand. As neo-classical economists say, the law of diminishing marginal utility applies in their context. In other words, as a consumer starts acquiring the units of such goods, the amount of utility derived from each successive unit falls and he stops his acquisition at the point where the amount of utility forgone indicated by the price paid is equal to the amount of utility derived.

This law does not apply to the items termed as positional goods because their supply is, in the language of economists, very, very inelastic. It can never be increased enough to match the volume of demand. Their supply can never be enough to satisfy the demand of everyone wanting them. To give certain examples, lively beaches, hill resorts pf scenic beauty, the painting like Mona Lisa, Mahatma Gandhi’s letters, folio volumes of Shakespeare’s works, coins of the Mauryan times, swords of the conquerors of the days of yore, and so on cannot be increased at all.

Rembrandts sind – anders als Konsumgüter, die nachproduziert werden können – nicht vermehrbar.

Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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