ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Zero-Sum Game: Is the Pie getting bigger?

Updated on August 7, 2020

Are the actions you make affecting what actions others may be able to make? When you take a piece of the pie, does that leave less for the person behind you? All of these questions relate to the idea of a “zero sum game”; an aggregate of all the gains and losses made and then summed will be equal zero.

So, if you take a larger piece of pie at a party or an office event, the person behind you really is affected. There will be less pie for someone else. Your gain is someone else’s loss. However, what if when you take a larger piece of pie, the pie actually gets larger? This idea gets fuzzy when talking about an actual pie, or any thing tangible.

However, in economics, rarely will there be a situation where a willing seller and a willing buyer will enter into a transaction where they are not somehow marginally, or fractionally better off when they were before the transaction. Back to the pie example, an individual who takes a larger piece may get more pie, but it may be at the benefit of the other stakeholders (their officemates). It may have been determined that someone did not want a piece of pie because they are allergic to strawberries (I'm using strawberry pie for this example). Or someone is on a diet or had more pie the last time.

This clearly supports, that one officemate gets more pie, but the other two are healthier because of it! The literal "pie" has gotten larger, while the figurative one has remained the same.

Zero sum games are much harder to find then you would think. It is not very often that even what appears to be negative for everyone actually leaves everyone worse off. Markets work in such a way that ceteris paribus, (latin: all things remain constant ) that in order for anyone to actually consent to such an unfair or disproportionate other market factors have to limited or inhibited.

Let's take a look at a recent event that has been all over the new recently, the BP deepwater oil spill. Sounds like a total loss for everyone, right? Shareholders have lost billions in accrued profits (money carried forward from previous quarters) and even more in future profits. Anyone who makes a living on the wildlife in that area clearly has been negatively affected.

So how can this make the pie larger? Well for starters, we have to take present and future surplus into account. Without an oil spill like this, additional oil wells were going to be allowed under the Obama Administration ( Obama's timing couldn't have been worse, but it will only be a temporary setback for his administration). The spill caused a reversal of the opening of offshore drilling. It also forced other wells to be closed due to environmental concerns. Obviously, in the short term it has been a nightmare for environmentalists, however on a longer, larger scale it will be boon to environmentalists the world over.

Clean up crews being paid by BP are obvious winners here, creating jobs in an area otherwise without jobs. Even some of the boats used to fish before are being used in the clean up effort, so the pie has shifted, replacing those who were originally displaced. Deep water oil technology will be forced to improve, benefiting future generations. As well as the regulations in place regarding deep water oil drilling, which will have long lasting effects for hundreds of millions in the United States (especially those living in a coastal area).

Clearly, we all want such horrible events not to occur, however when they do, they do seem to shape public policy and thought. Environmentalists were having a hard time "selling" the general public on the need for environmental regulations. It was much easier in the 60's and 70's when there were rivers of fire and such, but now most of our pollution is invisible to the naked eye. This has created a much easier form of pollution that ties in directly with public concern.

So it may appear the pie is getting smaller, but really it's benefiting us all in a round-a-bout way!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)